Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw. Palace Theatre, Watford. March 22 to April 14

Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw. Palace Theatre,
Watford. March 22 to April 14.

This is a weekend houseparty comedy of manners dated 1920 and Shaw’s aim was to write it in the argumentative style of Chekov.  The format reminded me more of Noel Coward, and those who have recently seen “Hay Fever,” written a few years later, will recognise similarities. In both plays, a dominating hostess reshuffles the bewildered guests. But Shaw, as usual, was impelled to insert socialist messages into the amusing and often whimsical dialogue.  

His mouthpiece is the eccentric host, Captain Shotover (Ian Hogg), whose background on the high seas has given him a detached, not to say jaundiced, view of social weekends presided over by his manipulating daughter Hesione Hushabaye (Suzan Sylvester). His point of view becomes a commentary on the action.  

Socialism has moved on from the 1920s and I don’t think New Labour would agree with him that to be rich is to lose your soul. Although in the play’s context he was probably referring to Alfred Boss Mangan (Martin Turner) who having posed as a benefactor, confessed to ruining another guest, Mazzini Dunn (David Killick) – the only truly sympathetic character in the play. He was father of Mangan’s intended bride Ellie. In playing her, Laura Elphinstone had to change from a retiring, sheltered young lady into a forceful woman who, having reduced Mangan to a neurotic wreck, turned to the elderly Captain Shotover as his ‘bride made in heaven.’

To read the full review  by Frances Chidell please visit myChilterns community website at  www.mychilterns.co.uk


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