Misalliance – Review


Misalliance was considered George Bernard Shaw’s Marmite play.

On the whole the critics hated it when it was first staged in 1910 and its lack of popularity has seen it pretty much buried ever since.

But now burgeoning producer Matt Staton has revived the comedy in a three week run at Chiswick’s Tabard Theatre.

It’s a brave move from a passionate young producer trying to make a name for himself. I’m not sure Misalliance is the play to do it.

There were some fine performances let down by a rather weak and repetitious story.

It has been described as madcap. It’s certainly funny in places but it is also long-winded with an urgent need for director Nick Reed to take a red pen to several pages of dialogue (particularly, sorry Anna Marlene-Wirtz, the lengthy, rather dull speech, by “acrobat” Lina Szczepanowska).

The comedy plays on Shaw’s favourite themes of division among parents and children, class, social structure, and gender.

Surprisingly for the period (it’s set in Edwardian 1909) there is a strong message about female emancipation which probably didn’t endear it with audiences of the day.

We’re in the Surrey country home of knicker baron John Tarleton to meet a collection of characters from every stereotype in the playwright’s stable.

The corpulent, plain speaking, northern Tarleton is an advocate of literature and supports free libraries for the poor.

Both he and his wife have come up from the ranks and made themselves both a success in business and wealthy. They are now firmly of the middle classes.

The daughter (Hypatia to her indulgent mother and Patsy to her blunt father) is due to marry a rather limp-wristed “little squit of a thing” from the aristocracy. So far, so respectable.

But Patsy bucks the trend of traditional heroines and yearns for a real man to fall out of the sky and offer her a life of fun and adventure.

When one conveniently does it is she who goes hunting and throws a petulant strop when she has problems landing her man.

The upper classes are represented by “squit” Bunny, sorry Bentley Summerhays, and his father former colonial governor Lord Summerhays (who comes out with a quite shocking phrase to modern ears).

It also turns out that father and son have more in common than they think.

Socialism is represented by a gun-toting clerk who is fed up with his lot and wants to make a meaningful statement.

There’s a moment of lasciviousness among the two randy old gents but very little actually occurs – oh, other than a plane crash, which must have been very novel for the day.

Clifford Hume is a natural old school comedian who is right at home as the weighty Tarleton. There was quite a bit of Les Dawson in his mannerisms especially as he eyed up the lovely Lina.

It seems par for the course that the elderly married men should be philanderers.

The handsome Piers Hunt makes a dashing pilot who is reluctantly happy to be pursued by the amorous and bored Hypatia (Roberta Mair).

James Taylor Thomas goes all out to successfully serve up an outrageous over-the-top performance as the effete, lily-livered, spoilt brat, Bentley Summerhays – though I must admit he made me laugh.

Running until June 21.

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