Misalliance Is Shaw To Provoke Debate

Misalliance, Orange Tree Theatre ★★★☆☆

Neil Dowden
By Neil Dowden Last edited 8 months ago

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Misalliance Is Shaw To Provoke Debate Misalliance, Orange Tree Theatre 3
Photo: Helen Maybanks

Bernard Shaw’s little-performed 1909 comedy Misalliance shows the Irish playwright at his most eccentric and whimsical. It is set on one afternoon in the Surrey mansion of a nouveau riche philanthropist whose dissatisfied daughter is engaged to the effete son of a lord. The newly formed alliances are shaken after an aeroplane crashes through the conservatory roof bringing a charming, daredevil pilot and a glamorous female Polish acrobat. More upset ensues on the arrival of a young socialist clerk with a grievance — and a gun.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

Subtitled ‘A Debate in One Sitting’, the play does what it says in a wide-ranging discussion of marriage, women’s rights, class conflict and social convention. It’s undoubtedly a very talky piece, but being Shaw the talk tends to be very witty. The story (which includes eight marriage proposals) may be far-fetched but as usual the female characters more than hold their own.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

Paul Miller (who has previously successfully directed Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses and The Philanderer at the Orange Tree) has for some reason updated the play to the interwar period which detracts a little from Shaw’s progressive vision, but he handles proceedings with customary assurance. And in general the cast deliver the dialogue with deftness.

Misalliance, Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond TW9 2SA. Until 20 January 2018. Tickets from £22.50.

Last Updated 13 December 2017