Dear Liar

Posted: March 13, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

 

Delena Kidd and Gary Raymond

Delena Kidd and Gary Raymond

Directed:  Jerome Kilty

Cast:  Gary Raymond and Delena Kidd

Review:  Astrid Stark

 First Published in The Weekender, 7 March ’09

 

 

 

 

Imagine, dear woman, if upon your death your sweetheart publicly states, “Everyone is greatly relieved herself most so.” 

Thus opens Jerome Kilty’s play, Dear Liar, which is currently on the boards at the Theatre on the Bay.  It tells the true story of the romance between the intellectual giant and writer, George Bernard Shaw, and the beautiful and witty actress, Mrs Patrick Campbell. 

The nature of their relationship is exposed through the letters that Shaw and Campbell wrote to each other for nearly forty years. Both of them were married but it’s rumoured that Shaw’s wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, abstained from sexual relations with her husband, and that Shaw in return flung himself with much ardour into his extra-marital affairs.  Shunning alcohol and tobacco, Campbell exclaimed, “I am a teetotaller because my family has already paid the Shaw debt to the distilling industry so munificently as to leave me no further obligation.”  

British actor Gary Raymond, who is known for his Hollywood roles in, Look Back in Anger, El Cid, and Jason and the Argonauts, stars as Shaw.  Raymond completed his training at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the actor, now in his mid-seventies, still cuts a dashing figure as the philandering Shaw.  His wife of nearly fifty years, Delena Kidd, plays the role of Mrs Patrick Campbell with a resigned competence that reflects a lifetime of acting and staring into the spotlights. She is the daughter of an actress and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.  She has a cult following for her roles in The Avengers and Danger Man. 

“There are two tragedies in life.  One is to not get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it,” Shaw famously quipped.  And perhaps the real tragedy was Mrs Patrick Campbell’s.  Years after losing her first husband and son in the Boer war, the young actress remarried.  Her second husband had little money to speak of and she often had to support him, and her two children, working as an amateur actress. Reaction to her work has been varied, with some claiming that hers was a career filled with wasted opportunities. 

The play is well-written, and both the actors’ command of the text, and their skilled performances, is impressive.  Admittedly the performance will certainly be more appreciated by fans of Shaw’s wit.  The simplistic stage design was quite dull.  The fixed furniture could have been used to better effect by evolving with the performance and describing the different locations and moods.  The play is a broad perspective of their entire romance, and the passage of time is not reflected by either their costumes, or the stage design, which results in very little visual appeal.  Lovers of words, old-school chivalry, and witty bantering will enjoy the entertaining dialogue and may not be too disturbed by the lack of stage action or enhancements.  

Suffragettes will take pleasure in Mrs Campbell’s witty comebacks such as, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.  Snore – and you sleep alone.”    

Meeting Raymond and Kidd after the show felt a little surreal.  It is as if they have become Shaw and Campbell.  The one knows exactly the other’s whereabouts in the foyer, yet they never actually look at each other.  They exude that perfect Englishness that you can only get after studying in London and spending years at the West End.  Raymond, who has the appearance of a leaner Sean Connery, has steely eyes that pin you to the wall.  His wife is no less forgiving.  She only admits in a vague sort of way that acting together all these years, “Has its challenges”, and “Yes thank you we do like to travel between England and South Africa so very much.”

It is then true that for most of us the days of anticipating a stamped envelope filled with enduring sentiments are truly over, slaughtered by the onset of e-mail and mobile phone technology. Some, like our very own man of letters, Ben Trovato, endures.  However, his acerbic satirical writing does not involve conventional romance, unless you count his undying devotion to beer, and the man is about as charming as a pair of pliers.

Shaw wrote Pygmalion, for Campbell, and in one of the scenes, Colonel Pickering asks of Eliza Doolittle, “Have you no morals, man?”  Upon which she curtly replies, “Can’t afford them, Governor.” In Dear Liar, the morality of the couples’ affair is never put to question, it’s as if theirs was a time when it was expected and accepted to engage in extra-marital activities. 

It is only when Campbell tells Shaw that she wishes to publish his love letters to her that Shaw exclaimed, “I will not, dear Stella, at my time of life, play the horse to your Lady Godiva.”

Dear Liar runs at the Theatre on the Bay until 14 March.

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Comments
  1. Ben Trovato says:

    As charming as a pair of pliers? How dare you. I am outraged. May I buy you a drink?

    Like

  2. astridstark1 says:

    If this offer is an attempt to rekindle the fragile relationship between yourself and womankind as a whole, I will accept on behalf of all
    the fairer sex.
    However, if it is a thinly-veiled endeavour to seek opportunity to compare me to various appliances and/or tools, I will gracefully decline.

    yours always,

    Like

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