George Bernard Shaw’s political fantasy concerning the misery of the rich breaks all the rules of perceived wisdom, but profers that socialism works in two ways – rich people are even more pathetic victims than poor ones.
A young woman, Miss Mopply (Olivia Lumley) is kept in a cocoon state by her over protective mother. She's being tended by a doctor (Graham Seed), whose living depends on giving his patients the medicines they demand whether they need them or not. The sublimely irritating mother, Mrs Mopply (Jenny Lee), decides that her child should be immunised - “I was immunised against the Influenza and I’ve only had it four times”.
When the young woman’s bedroom is invaded by a couple of crooks, her powerful left hook is brought into use and she realises she is not ill after all – much to the relief of a microbe (Steven Alexander) who hangs about the girl’s bed. The crooked couple are Sweetie (Emily Bowker), a sexy fraudster, and Aubrey (Alex Blake), a scoundrel and an ordained priest.
They persuade the girl to steal her own pearls and submit to kidnapping in order to hold the mother to ransom. The fun continues through two more acts as the newly rich threesome have their adventures. Further satirical characters turn up including Colonel Tallboys (Roger Braban), a reluctant soldier who wants to paint. He believes Private Meek, like all lower classes, is educationally subnormal until he finds out that he has been commissioned four times but is a private soldier from choice.
This character, supposedly based on Shaw's friend Lawrence of Arabia, is played with charm by appropriately monikered Tai Lawrence. We also meet Aubrey’s atheistic father (James Clarkson – a Shavian lookalike) who disowned his son when he became ordained. Miss Mopply decides to start a “women for freedom” movement, obviously with the approval of the author himself.
This topsy-turvey world ends with a lengthy peroration by the 'scoundrel' Aubrey on the theme that anybody can be a saint if they have money - give a few thousands to charity and you earn a halo. It's a fitting full-stop on a play which is stuffed with Shaw’s musings on socialist and feminist political ideas.
This rarely revived play is by no means easy, but is undoubtedly entertaining, and here lovingly directed by Sarah Norman.
- Aline Waites