Joan stands still and watches as the men in front of her discuss her. Though unmoving, the lights glare off Joan’s armour and we know she sees them, these men who construct their plot and lay plans against her. Seldom will she have complete autonomy here, seldom can she act on her own without convincing some man to give her what is required and, finally, these men will encircle and end her. This is a SAINT JOAN for a modern audience. Directed by Imara Savage with text from Shaw and Savage and Emme Hoy and an implosive performance from Sarah Snook, this St Joan is understandable, relevant and, whatever your belief system, driven by forces invisible. Continue reading SAINT JOAN: AN EXHORTATION TO BE INSPIRING
George Bernard Shaw’s ST JOAN, in a production directed by Josie Rourke at the Donmar, is the latest play in the NT Live screenings.
I had mixed feelings about Rourke’s production. Gemma Arterton as St Joan is superb, and the idea of updating the play to now with computers, mobile phones and rolling screens of financial statistics was intriguing but didn’t feel like it worked that well.
The dialogues was beautifully spoken it could perhaps be a terrific radio play version. The play is abridged, but much attention is paid to the complicated, convoluted text of Shaw’s play. Continue reading NT LIVE’S OVERLY AMBITIOUS ST JOAN @ THE DONMAR
George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 MAN AND SUPERMAN with more than 57,000 words, is an epic romantic comedy of manners, a witty social satire and presents a range of very profound philosophical arguments and other existential topics and theories.
Full of contradictions, the play is a comedy about ideas – most of the characters passionately discuss and debate a range of subjects including politics, capitalism, socialism, social reform, male/female roles in courtship. It definitely has a certain Wildean appeal, with a multitude of clever witticisms, about music and the morals of the English upper classes, whilst questioning the integrity of English politicians.
When first published it was pronounced as being unstageable, because its verbosity made it unwieldy. The play asks fundamental questions about how we live, during its four acts lasting nearly four hours, and all the messages conveyed remain still very relevant today, and in its genre this play remains forever a provocative theatre landmark.
Prostitution as a means of empowering women is a contentious notion even now, let alone in 1893 when MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION was written by Dublin-born social reformer George Bernard Shaw (who also wrote PYGMALION). No wonder it was banned from being performed in the UK by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (a power which the office had until 1968); and that Sydney Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Andrew Upton describes the play as a ‘very modern’ one.
The profession of Mrs Warren (beautifully played by a loud and blowsy Helen Thomson) is that of brothel owner, and it is a lucrative one that has allowed her personable daughter Vivie, recently graduated from college, to lead a comfortable life. To date anyway…
The play opens in a sunlight garden, the backdrop of which is a high, cream-coloured wall dappled with thousands of pink and red rose-like blooms, its idyllic summery atmosphere a tribute to the set design skills of Renee Mulder and the lighting expertise of Nigel Levings.
In this garden Vivie is studying her law books when the first of a succession of single men enters, a middle-aged chap called Praed (Simon Burke), who is a friend of Vivie’s mother. Before long they are joined by Mrs Warren and Sir George Crofts, a late middle-aged buffoon. Much banter ensues. And then Frank Gardner (Eamon Farren), the spendthrift son of the local rector (Drew Forsythe) arrives.
Frank initially comes across as a harmless Wodehousian fop but becomes increasingly obnoxious and irritating — and a good shot to boot — almost to the extent of hindering one’s enjoyment of the play. Thankfully he is offset by Vivie, played in a delightfully feminine way — albeit in a slightly bookish and stilted late Victorian manner — by Lizzie Schebesta. Sir George too is not what he initially seems, and reveals a calculating, black heart convincingly played by Martin Jacobs. Thanks to Vivie’s steely determination of purpose however, some morality is finally imposed on an immoral world in the closing scene.
Veering dangerously close to farce at stages — Vivie is romantically pursued by three of the four principal characters and the other has had a fling with her mother; while Vivie’s paternity is the source of much ribald speculation — there are plenty of laughs to be had, mainly before the interval. There are probably one or two too many lengthy monologues for the liking of some, but not enough to spoil a vivacious evening’s theatre directed with as light a hand as the script allows by Sarah Giles.
MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION opened at the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 Theatre on Tuesday 19th February and runs until Saturday 6th April. Due to popular demand there is a return season, at the same venue, between Thursday 4th and Saturday 20th July, 2013.