Robert Tanitch reviews Village Wooing and How He Lied to Her Husband at Tristan Bates Theatre, London WC2
It is not often you get a chance to see George Bernard Shaw’s full length plays and the chances of seeing his one-act plays are even rarer. So, Robert Gillespie’s modest double bill, agreeably acted, is doubly welcome.
Village Wooing, written in 1934, has considerable charm. A writer of guide books (Mark Fleischmann) finds himself sitting next to a shop assistant (Madeleine Hutchins) on board a cruise. She’s a right chatterbox and gets on his nerves. . “I never talk to women,” he says. “If I talk to women they always want to marry me.”
They meet again when he is on a walking tour of Wiltshire and comes into her shop. He doesn’t recognise her but she recognises him and, before he knows it, he finds himself running the shop and rushed into marriage. He has neither the strength nor the courage to resist a determined woman.
The role is said to be a posthumous portrait of Lytton Strachey; but it could just as easily be a portrait of Shaw himself and has been played as such.
How He Lied To Her Husband, written in 1904, is a typical farce in the French vaudeville manner, except it has been anglicised and all the naughty-nineties sex removed. Shaw takes the familiar and hackneyed eternal triangle and gives it a very neat twist. The husband (Alan Francis) is actually proud that a young man (Josh Harper) should be in love with his wife (Elliot Safavi) and write poems to her.
He is outraged when the 18-year old denies it. “So, my wife is not good enough for you, isn’t she?” He boasts his wife has been admired by actor-managers, cabinet ministers and dukes. He offers to publish the love poems at his expense.
Hopefully, Gillespie’s success might lead to revivals of Shaw other one-act plays, such as, for instance, Overruled, which hasn’t had a slap-up production for a long time.