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A curate's egg collection but with subtitles.
on 13 December 2015
This review may be a work in progress as I work through the plays. So far the plays, while providing a record of some of Shaw's dramatic works, are disappointing lack lustre productions. It is difficult to imagine these productions coming from the BBC which produced The Forsyte Saga or the Pallisers.
The Apple Cart, which I have encountered as an entertaining radio play, and has had successful runs at the Niagara on the Lake Shaw Festival is a benchmark bad production. Badly dressed, appalling sets, dull pacing results in the cut and thrust of the dialogue being completely lost.
Pygmalion was better but Eliza Dolittle was somewhat miscast, rather tall and dominating the other characters. Pacing was better but still a bit stodgy and I am curious what text was used. I suspect elements from the film screenplay, also by Shaw, seem to have been inserted since as presented here it would be difficult to stage. A plus here is that the ending makes more sense than in the film version.
The best play so far working through the set is the short "Man of Destiny". Still feeling like a stage production pacing is better with a few weaknesses, the play presents a version of Napoleon's first meeting with Josephine. Twists are a little predictable but Napoleon's prophetic vision of his ultimate defeat and entertaining analysis of English and Irish character comes off well.
Androcles and the Lion slips back to simply being stodgy and clumsily paced. It is capable of better performances.
Best so far, but slightly short of perfect is "Arms and the Man". This is enhanced by good sets and costumes. The weakness is slightly slow initial pacing but things eventually get moving to bring off the farcical elements reasonably well if a shade less than perfect.
I may deal with the other plays later. So far it is good to have productions of these plays available but text is suspect.