Shaw Shorts: Old school love affair

I finally got the chance to see a show at the famous Galbraith Manor at New West a couple weeks ago. This historic, (haunted), VIctorian style house was built in 1892; and still stands today as a heritage building, a conference centre, and occasionally a performance venue.

Last month, New West’s own City Stage New West put on Shaw Shorts, which consisted of Shaw’s one act How He Lied to Her Husband, and a compilation of Shaw’s letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who was a famous actress during Shaw’s times that he simply adored. A simple research reveals that Shaw has written many of his plays’ most notable leading female roles with Campbell in mind, and she ended up starring in Pygmalion as the Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Shaw had refused to publish his letters exchange with Campbell (which is essentially the plot of How He Lied to Her Husband), afraid that his wife Charlotte Payne-Townshend would be upset (it was believed that he never consummated this marriage… the only reason he agreed to marry her was because he didn’t want it to look like a scandal). It wasn’t until two years after his death were these letters published, and heavily edited.

City Stage New West’s Renée Bucciarelli read through these letters, then edited and arranged these letters to what she named Love Letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a truly intriguing account of the well-rumoured love affair between the famous playwright and actress. Simon Webb as “Her Husband” in How He Lied to Her Husband and Shaw in Love Letters to Mrs. Patrick Campbell delivered an excellent performance and spoke with complete ease and flow.While Bucciarelli, playing “Herself” in the one-act farce and Campbell in the latter captured the roles with compelling integrity. Luc Roderique as “Her Lover” in the farce provided the youthful energy that drove the engine behind the comedy.

Directions from Delinquent Theatre‘s Laura McLean (whose directing credits include the well-received STATIONARY: a recession era musical) made use of the beautiful and intimate setting of the Galbraith Manor to her advantage, and created a steady pace that held the audience’s attention. While Love Letter to Mrs. Patrick Campbell had interesting content, the sheer length of the piece might’ve been just a little too long. Overall, Shaw Shorts featured some fantastic acting from all three actors, and reinstated the Galbraith Manor at the heart of New West as an one-of-a-kind stage for small audiences. I sincerely hope to see more works by City Stage New West soon.

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