Misalliance

George Bernard Shaw
Thundermaker Productions
Tabard Theatre
to

West London's Tabard Theatre has the intimacy of the Finborough and in summer the Turkish bath atmosphere that used to characterise the Earl's Court venue.

The artistic team brought together by Thundermaker Productions also seems to have similarly lofty ambition as their almost-neighbour.

Misalliance is a long-forgotten comedy of Shaw's that richly deserves this revival.

On a delightful set designed by Leah Sams, a large cast takes us back to 1909 and an affluent, nouveau riche home in the Surrey stockbroker belt.

This is household built on the success of the Tarleton underwear business i.e. the kind of trade at which all decent folk were supposed to turn up their noses. Scion of this empire is the mountainous John Tarleton, played with gusto by Clifford Hume.

The main topic of interest is the impending marriage between the haughty daughter of the house, Roberta Mair's scheming Hypatia, and a man so drippy that you worry he might wilt as fast as the interval ice cream.

Jeremy Taylor Thomas plays young Bentley whose sole selling point is his father, Lord Summerhays's, aristocratic title. This perspective marriage made in hell is the misalliance of the title.

What seems like the lightest of comedies changes tone thanks to a series bizarre arrivals.

Immediately before the interval, a youthful working class man with a pistol suddenly materialises. Hiding in the Turkish bath, he becomes a witness to what would today be innocent romancing but 105 years ago could break an engagement on the instant.

Young John, as the emotive Rory Fairbairn's character identifies himself, is a useful Shavian tool, introducing a class debate into proceedings to accompany the feminism and morality that add a little seriousness to an unexpectedly amusing comedy.

The evening is greatly enhanced by the airborne arrival of a cad, Jerry Percival and a female Polish acrobat. In the latter role, Anna-Marlene Wirtz has great fun as Lina Sczcepanowska.

Not only is this daredevil a beauty but she combines courage and intellect—all-in-all every red-blooded man's dreamgirl but also enticing enough to tempt even a lily-livered coward.

Before the evening comes to a close, every man has tried to pair off with every young woman outside his close family, while a few home truths are delicately revealed. Inevitably, the unfairness of a class- and capital-driven society is put under the microscope too during an enjoyable 2½ hours.

Nick Reed's production feels under-rehearsed, while the acting is desperately uneven. However, the play is great fun with a serious layer providing food for thought and carries the day despite the production's weaknesses. As a result, theatre aficionados should definitely consider heading to Turnham Green to give it a try.

Philip Fisher