Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Triple Bill II (Love)

George Bernard Shaw
Orange Tree, Richmond
(2006)

Overruled
How She Lied to Her Husband
Village Wooing

The Orange Tree Theatre, a small in-the-round theatre in Richmond, two minutes walk from the station, is one of the best and certainly one of the most comfortable and attractive of all fringe theatres in the London area. Production standards are high. Sam Walters, the artistic director celebrated Bernard Shaw’s 150th anniversary with two triple bills of his one-act plays. One bill was on the theme of war (reviewed separately), the other bill was on a theme of love, reviewed below.

Shaw was in love with the famous actress Mrs Patrick Campbell when he wrote Overruled, a witty Shavian debate on adultery and wife-swapping, originally called Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted. The infatuations and flirtations take place on board ship during a cruise. “I’m the anticipation,” boasts one husband having fallen in love with another man’s wife. “You’re the disappointment.” David Antrobus as the husband was very stylish. The play was a resounding failure in 1912, the audience shocked by its immorality.

How She Lied to Her Husband is vaudeville farce in the French manner but without any sex. Shaw gives the familiar eternal triangle a neat twist: The husband (Mark Frost) is outraged when a poet (Nicholas Gadd) denies being in loving his wife. “My wife is not good enough for you, isn’t she?” He is proud when the young man admits he is in love with her and promises to publish his love poems to his wife at his expense. The play suffered from following on immediately after Overruled without any interval

Bernard Shaw described Village Wooing as an unladylike comedieta for two voices and three conversations. The comedy has considerable charm. A writer of guide books (Stuart Fox) finds himself sitting next to a shop assistant (Sarah Minton) on board on a cruise. She's a right chatterbox and gets on his nerves. 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 you can say Bernard Shaw, he finds himself running the shop and rushed into marriage. The author was said to be a posthumous portrait of Lytton Strachey. It could just as easily have been a portrait of Shaw himself.

There are many other one-act classic plays by Chekhov, Strindberg, Synge, Barrie, Houghton, Brighouse, Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, Shepard, Stoppard, Mamet, etc, etc, which are well worth reviving. Perhaps the National Theatre during the height of the tourist season could run a repertoire of plays at lunchtime?

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch