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Tuesday 19th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

West London Trade Union Club
London W3

IN 1894 when Candida by George Bernard Shaw premiered in New York it ushered in the virulent disease of Candidamania. Smitten by it’s proto-feminist onslaught and the sharpness of Shaw’s wit, New Yorkers dropped like flies.

Fast forward to now and you get a sense of that mania in this Sturdy Beggars zesty and comedic production of the play.

In it, the reverend James Mavor Morell (Mark Shaer, commanding) is a very morally upright Christian, celebrated in socialist circles as one of those Victorian muscular Christians with progressive views.

He’s married to Candida (Deborah Peck) a sort of epitome of perfection. More than just a wife, she is mother, friend, support and general rock of ages on which Morell’s life and career are founded.

But into their lives comes the fly in the ointment, one Eugene Marchbanks (Daniel Cech-Lewis) a young, 18-year-old poet and self-confessed aesthete of the sort that was brought to prominence by the Oscar Wilde affair.

He falls deeply in love with the pastor’s wife and naturally this does not go down too well with James. Poet and pastor lock horns verbally and physically, with the God-fearing Morell mauling the art-for-art’s sake upstart.

They finally hit on the decision to ask Candida to choose between them and, standing on a stool centre stage like the statue of Justice, she finally plumps for “the weakest one.” Spoilers’ law forbids me to snitch.

Dare I say Shaw’s piece mirrors today’s turbulent times with men like Johnson and Gove furiously playing yah-boo games and backstabbing while Rome burns as Theresa May, the calm female presence, assumes centre stage to sort things out?

The cast are top-notch and Jack O’Connor’s production swiftly and forcefully drives all the Shavian points home.

Review by Michael Stewart