George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 39
Shaw at the Court

IN THE YEAR 1903, ONLY ONE OF Shaw'S PLAYS, IT APPEARS, The Admirable Bashville, a blank verse dramatization of Cashel Byron's Profession, was seen on the stage in England. On Sunday June 7, and on Monday afternoon, June 8, the Stage Society produced at the Imperial Theatre, London, three short plays-- The Golden Rose by Ian Robertson, The Waters of Babylon by S. M. Fox , and The Admirable Bashville; or Constancy Unrewarded, by G. Bernard Shaw . The production of Shaw's piece of exquisite fooling was thoroughly delightful; the satire was made for and at everybody and everything. Not even the Elizabethan Stage Society was spared, and the scene passes on a Shakespearean platform over which totter, during the intervals, superannuated beef- eaters, bearing placards to indicate that it represents, now "A Glade in Wilstoken Park," now "A Room in Park Lane," and now "The Agricultural Hall, Islington." The principal rôles were played by Henrietta Watson ( Lydia Carew), Ben Webster ( Cashel Byron), and James Hearn (The Zulu King). But the great feature of the evening was Aubrey Smith, made up so veraciously to represent Shaw as an Irish policeman that he deceived not only strangers in the audience, but one of Shaw's nearest relatives. At the close, he "capped the climax" by appearing before the footlights and announcing that the author had left the house.

Before taking up the main events of this season, it is necessary to record that, after an interval of nearly five years, The Devil's Disciple was again produced at Manchester, England, this time on May 15, 1905, at the Queen's Theatre. The play was generally regarded as "mixed melodrama" by the Manchester audience, which greeted it with shouts of laughter and seemed to think it far funnnier than average pantomime. The play had a run of several weeks at Manchester, and was doubtless given elsewhere in the provinces by the same company. The part of Dudgeon was excellently taken by the versatile young actor, Harold V. Neilson.

The reception of Candida in London, offering as it does such glaring contrast to the reception of that play in New York, may serve to illustrate the tone of the theatergoing public. In the wake of Arnold Daly's notable popular productions of Candida in America, followed six matinée performances of

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