Peek into the world of Bernard Shaw

Life episodes of Irish essayist, novelist and short story writer Bernard Shaw, retold through a one-man show

Peek into the world of Bernard Shaw

One man who had an opinion on almost everything is often referred to as George Bernard Shaw. The life and times of Irish essayist, novelist and short story writer was brought alive by Martin Nichols in his play Bernard Shaw Invites You.

Presented recently by Shaw’s Corner at India Habitat Centre, the play was a one man show, performed by Paddy O’ Keefe, the actor who though he appeared like Shaw, thanks to his well-trimmed beard, sported a more colourful look with green shoes.Based on the life and views of Bernard Shaw the play rightly attracted only those in the audience, who knew or had read Shaw. For the rest, it was a mundane affair with few punches hidden in long-winding dialogues. 

The script was not so engaging but Paddy’s stint tried to salvage it and was successful in certain instances. Staged in the format of an interview – where Paddy doubled up as the interviewer, the dialogue was a monologue. One would have appreciated a referential medium (either through another actor or projector) to the various characters that were mentioned in the play. 

The narrative-technique was not really unprecedented and the content too was sort of predictable with Shaw relenting to the questions of the interviewer and stating facts about his childhood, love affairs, marriage and even flings with various women.

Shaw’s views on parenting, education and war are highlighted in the play and somewhat find a relevance in the present context too. Even lesser known facts such as Shaw’s doubts on his being a legitimate son of his father and his love for music were presented through the actor.

It is, however, Shaw’s views on war and politics which trigger one’s mind to correlate the 17th and 21st centuries. There is also a mention of Karl Marx and his theories in relation to Ireland, Shaw’s native land.

As one appreciates the intelligence of the Irish playwright, the ways to improve the performance hover in the mind. Instead of evolving with time, the one-and-a-half-hour play fizzles out. Few strong statements such as “Only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything” can be credited to Shaw and Paddy delivers it with as much intensity as he could.

The lights are technically good and help the audience in differentiating between two scenes but in the absence of sound, the silence in an already sombre play makes it difficult to digest it in one go. Just like a non-interesting history session. 

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