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George Bernard Shaw's 'Misalliance' at The Arts Theatre - Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events. www.weekendnotes.com/profile/121822
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Revisiting a bygone era
Shaw's Misalliance by Adelaide Repertory Theatre at The Arts Theatre - Review


Written in 1910 at the height of the Edwardian period by George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance was obviously progressive for its time. His plays often revealed his passion for establishing disorderly situations and inverting the customary opinion of things to create a fresh outlook on conventions.

Without question, Misalliance would have been quite thought provoking, as it explores various serious issues like class, marriage, family dynamics, gender equality, politics and socialism. Even though today there are moments when it does appear dated, drawn-out and no-longer provocative, it is still interesting and entertaining due to the sharp wit of his dialogue.

This drawing room comedy is set in a grand British country home of Mr Tarleton (Lindsay Dunn), a successful self-made underwear manufacturer, his family, potential in-laws and two unexpected adventurers Joey Percival (Adam Tuominen) and Lina (Leah Craig) who literally drop-in when their plane crash lands into the conservatory, and a wannabe revolutionary (Leighlan Doe) appears at the house with the intention of assassinating Mr Tarleton, whom he regards as an evil capitalist.

Romance is afoot, in various forms, as the flighty Hypatia (Anna Bee) is engaged to Bentley Summerhays (Simon Lancione), the spoilt, constantly screaming, highly-strung, immature son of the lecherous aristocrat Lord Summerhays (Peter Bleby) who has the hots for Hypatia. Lord Summerhays makes advances towards Hypatia, while readily admitting he was hopeless at parenting, and can offer no solutions to improving his son's constant brash misbehaviour. Surprise! Surprise!

On the arrival of the adventurers Shaw's wit and passion for inverting situations and relationships and showing a different perspective on conventions is clearly evident, as there is a spark of romance with Hypatia chasing after the pilot/adventurer, Joey Percival. While Lina receives romantic advances from other male members. Keeping in mind Shaw wrote this play over a 100 years ago when his sharp wit explored the folly of love and while the actions of some of these characters would have been considered as quite promiscuous and outrageous then, today it does seem such a familiar story-line.

When discussing the play over coffee afterwards, I couldn't help wondering if Shaw's story was updated with today's perspective on conventions, how it would possibly have more appeal and relevance with today's audiences. I am sure Shaw would have found the rise and fall of our first female Australian Prime Minister a wonderful resource for his theatrical work. Together with the expressed opinions and behaviour of some of our parliamentarians at question time or in public or in private, that have become substantial court room references. In particular, the well recorded dialogues over who is or who is not guilty of misogyny, I am sure, Shaw would have found a wonderful resource for theatre.

If you are unfamiliar with George Bernard Shaw it is worth seeing his plays as they were staged in 1910 to develop an understanding of his work. If you enjoy his plays you are bound to find Misalliance worthwhile. The actors were wonderful, the sets and costumes were evocative of the era. Unfortunately, this season is over, as I attended this performance on the final night, but you could always look out for another of Shaw's plays as they are still popular with theatrical groups and audiences.
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Why? Ideal play by George Bernard SHaw to appreciate his view of creating a fresh perspective on conventions.
When: 11 September - 20 September 2014
Phone: 8212 5777
Where: Arts Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Cost: Check with theatre
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