Alex Bhat as Major Sergius Saranoff
at the Orange Tree Theatre
Photo by Ellie Kurttz
057 – Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw
Arms and the Man was George Bernard Shaw’s first public success as playwright when it premiered in the West End of London in 1894, and as it happens it is the first play by Shaw that we have covered on the podcast. The play is both an effervescent romantic comedy and a telling satire of love, war and social pretension. As we record this episode it is being revived in a joyous production at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, south-west London, directed by its outgoing Artistic Director Paul Miller.
My guest to help us survey the battlefield of love in late 19th century Bulgaria is Shaw expert, Ivan Wise. Ivan was the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society from 2005 to 2010.
Ivan was the editor of The Shavian, the journal of the Shaw Society, for five years from 2005 to 2010. He has lectured on Shaw at the Carlow Festival in Ireland, the Shaw Festival in Canada and at Shaw’s Corner in Hertfordshire, and has written about Shaw for the Times Literary and Higher Education Supplements. He was recently the expert witness on Shaw on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives.
Ivan also presents the podcast Better Known, which asks guests to nominate six things that they love that they think should be better known.
Ivan recommended The Philanthropist by Christopher Hampton.
The Footnotes to our episode on George Bernard Shaw’s romantic comedy Arms and the Man include further observations on Shaw’s satire of social pretensions, as well as references to a few of the great names who have taken on the role of Major Sergius Saranoff.
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Shakespeare’s devastating exploration of race, reputation and jealousy, The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice was a popular success when it was first performed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in the centuries since it has provoked a wide range of responses as successive generations have grappled with the racial identity of the eponymous character. As we record this episode a new production of Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London views the play’s treatment of race through a contemporary lens, setting the play within the London Metropolitan police force, a topical environment for racial inspection.
I am privileged to welcome as my guest someone especially qualified to help us navigate the tricky waters of Shakespeare’s play, Farah Karim-Cooper, Director of Education at Shakespeare’s Globe, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kings College London, and the author of The Great White Bard – Shakespeare, Race and the Future.
Ken Nwosu as Othello and Ralph Davies as Iago
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Photo by Johan Persson
Harold Pinter’s disturbing exploration of toxic masculinity and sexual maneuvering, The Homecoming premiered in 1965. The play’s portrait of misogyny, and even more disturbing, the apparent female complicity, was shocking at the time it was written. Nearly 60 years on the sexual politics is if anything even more difficult to watch. So what was Pinter’s purpose in presenting such a provocative piece, and how do we process it in the post Me-Too age?
I am joined by Matthew Dunster, the director of a scintillating new production of the play at the Young Vic in London, who can help us answer those questions about Pinter’s challenging classic.
Lisa Diveney as Ruth at the Young Vic – photo by Dean Chalkley.
Henrik Ibsen’s dark family drama Ghosts provoked outrage when it was published in 1881, its treatment of sexual disease, incest and euthanasia too much for the critics. More than 140 years later its portrait of repressed truths and social hypocrisy remains as powerful as ever.
Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps us review Ibsen’s unflinching drama.
Hattie Morahan as Helene Alving at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, London, December 2023. Photo by Marc Brenner.