Friday, June 24, 2011
SHAW FESTIVAL - CANDIDA – STRENGTH OF ACTING AND CHARACTER IF NOT ACCENT
Reviewed by James Karas
Near the end of Bernard Shaw’s Candida, the main character of the play must choose between two men who profess to love her. She is up for auction and she asks the two men what they have to bid for her.
Her husband, the Rev. James Morell offers “my strength for your defence, my honesty for your surety, my ability and industry for your livelihood, and my authority and position for your dignity.’
Her other “lover”, an eighteen-year old poet named Marchbanks offers “my weakness. My desolation. My heart’s need.”
Candida is now playing at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake and it is the second of three plays by Shaw offered by the Shaw Festival this year.
Anywhere in the world except in England as seen by Bernard Shaw, if a young man arrived at a man’s house and told him that he is in love with his wife, he is likely to be beaten up if not shot on the spot. But let us remember that Shaw is examining the position of women and strength of character in late 19th century England and not writing about love and romance.
The point is, of course, that Candida does not belong to anyone and the men have nothing to offer her. Claire Jullien as Candida is statuesque, self-assured, beautiful and commanding without in any way appearing to be domineering. Her husband played by Nigel Shawn Williams and her lover Marchbanks (Wade Bogert-O’Brien) have nothing to offer to her and she has everything to offer to them.
Rev. Morell as played by Williams is a self-centred, windbag who can give lectures and deliver sermons but he is completely ineffectual. His life has been run by others who have covered his ineffectuality to the extent that he believes that he has “strength” etc. to offer Candida.
Bogert-O’Brien as Marchbanks is full of passionate but vacuous intensity. By the end of the play he at realizes that Candida does not belong to anyone and he learns to live without happiness.
Norman Browning plays Mr. Burgess, Candida’s father, an unscrupulous and gruff businessman and Krista Colosimo is Morell’s officious and efficient secretary. She is another person who is running his life while he thinks he is under control Graeme Somerville is the Rev. Lexy Mill.
Set Designer William Schmuck provides a gorgeous, oak-panelled drawing room that is a delight to look at.
The production is directed by Tadeusz Bradecki who took over for Gina Wilkinson after her death.
The play brings out what was bothering Shaw and England at the end of the 19th century and the production does it justice to a great extent. But the setting is England and the people that Shaw writes about spoke/speak with English accents. In this production, the accents were even more deplorable than usual. Williams and Browning didn’t seem to be even trying. Bogert-O’Brien was trying but mostly on the nerves. He would be much better off with his native accent. He could certainly act the passionate youth and convince us that he was in love with this older woman.
Jullien seemed much better perhaps because she had such a command of her role and Colosimo was good perhaps for the same reason.
I write at length about the actors’ accents because they seemed to be an impediment to their acting. Never mind that you would not know where you are if you simply heard them. If they did not try to imitate English accents, the whole thing would be better.
Candida by Bernard Shaw continues until October 30, 2011 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. www.shawfest.com.