'Candida' review or 'Are we putting the keys in the bowl, then?'

'Candida', Bernard Shaw
Greenwich Playhouse, Thursday 2nd June 2011
Written for Time Out

The priest
Did you hear the one about the poet, the priest and his wife? Probably not, since Shaw's 'Candida', now revived by Candy King Productions, is rarely performed in London. That's a shame, since this is an oddly intriguing play with barbed laughs aplenty.

Although Shaw hints at poor working conditions and the struggle for women's rights, 'Candida' is essentially a domestic drama. Reverend James Morrell, almost as devoted to his wife Candida as he is to the good Lord, is initially encouraging of her plan to educate na├»ve poet Eugene. However, when Eugene confesses his love for Candida, the two men embark on a dirty tussle for her affections. 

 
Candida considers her options

Shaw has picked two polarised but equally pompous suitors and it should be pitifully amusing to watch them grovel at Candida's fine feet. Unfortunately, Maria Chiorando's direction isn't sharp enough and the tone slides between satire and something more heart-felt.

Peter Rae is suitably simpering as the puppy dog poet, Helen Bang's Candida has a compellingly cruel sheen and Keith Hill is excellent as the priest, pumped full of piety. But the actors seem uncertain whether to aim for laughs or gasps and it's tough to decide how seriously to take their play for power.

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