Shaw’s Women: Village Wooing / How He Lied to Her Husband

George Bernard Shaw wrote very many plays, and Jane Nightwork Productions are currently showing two of them at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden. Two of Shaw’s shorts, Village Wooing and How He Lied to Her Husband, have been chosen because of their focus on strong women, and they are entertaining in their own right as well as being illustrative of Shaw’s views and attitudes towards relations between the sexes.

Village Wooing sees a taciturn writer disturbed, while trying to write about the cruise he is taking for a guidebook, by a beautiful but extremely talkative young woman. It transpires that she is only on the cruise because she won some money, and will have to go back to her job as a shop assistant and telephone operator in her small village.

Later, the writer (known to us only as A) walks into the young woman’s (Z) shop, and the relationship between them develops as they fall in love despite repeated sparring. Madeleine Hutchins is charming yet full of practicality as Z, while Mark Fleischmann is very good as the put-upon A.

How He Lied… is a shorter piece which amply demonstrates Shaw’s wit. A society wife, Aurora, is terrified lest her husband Teddy discover the verses which her lover Henry has written to her, and which she has lost. She turns Henry down when he insists the two of them run away together, trying instead to persuade him to convince Teddy the poems were meant for someone else. However, the pair could hardly have anticipated Teddy’s reaction. Josh Harper is very funny as the naive, youthful Henry, who constantly insists that he is on a “higher plane”; Viss Elliot Safavi is also good as the more down-to-earth Aurora, while Alan Francis has a brief but memorable turn as Teddy. The pieces might lack the depth and narrative thrust of Shaw’s longer work, but they are sharply observed and highly amusing.

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