Village Wooing

Rebecca Grimes and Peter Gaynor in 'Village Wooing' by Bernard Shaw at Bewleys Café Theatre.

Rebecca Grimes and Peter Gaynor in 'Village Wooing' by Bernard Shaw at Bewleys Café Theatre.

When a woman wearing a watch asks a man the time, perhaps he ought to be circumspect. Bernard Shaw’s one-act comedietta of an unlikely romance is a delightful little lunchtime treat of delicious wordplay and verbal wit.

An aristocratic poet and occasional travel writer, A (Elliot Moriarty), sits working in a temporarily peaceful corner of the deck onboard ‘The Empress of Patagonia’ as she cruises the Red Sea. His aim to pen 500 words before lunch is made impossible by the perpetual interjections of Z (Rebecca Grimes), a seemingly harmless and charming young phone operator who thinks the Red Sea ought to be red and that a “man of letters” constitutes a postman. Despite the apparent difference between them in class and education – one he cruelly likens to that between a parrot and a bird of paradise – the wayward wooing of a scantily dressed chatty young woman in the confines of a “pleasure ship” is no welcome distraction for the snobbish curmudgeon whose wish is to be left alone to “work his passage”. While he is bent on simply shutting her up, her unbending goal is to marry him; a mismatch made in heaven, as it turns out.

“We’re getting on, aren’t we?” she assures him in the first few minutes of their rather one-sided conversation. This marks the beginning of a highly amusing surge of persuasive verbal trickery and bombardment that eventually see this admittedly uneducated and grammatically flawed village woman achieve everything she set out to gain from her perfect stranger in the course of just three brief interactions with him – from a boss, to a husband, to a lover (despite his obvious reluctance) respectively. Before we (and he, it seems) know it, she is melodiously spelling out the banns of their impending marriage down the phone – “B for beauty, A for audacity, two Ns for nonsense and S for singing.” Just as she goes to announce their names as the marriage parties, the play ends, leaving us to wonder whether the nameless couple ever got round to the point of names at all. They certainly never get round to much else related to matrimony. The overall ‘point’ of the play is therefore questionable. Perhaps there is an auto-biographical element reflected in Shaw’s infamously sexless relationship with Charlotte Payne-Townsend, or perhaps one could go as far as to wonder how well anyone really knows the person they decide to marry, or whether there is a point to marriage at all.

Grimes is clearly at ease in this scandalously cheeky role that requires a great deal of poise and verbal dexterity, while her provisional counterpart (Moriarty) appeared a little inhibited in his movements and gestures by the confines of the corner-set stage. Andrew Murray’s cleverly double-sided props made for a visually interesting set in an otherwise minute space, while Eimear Farrell’s costume design and attention to detail was on the button.

Jennifer Lee

  • Review
  • Theatre

Village Wooing by Bernard Shaw

13 Aug – 8 Sept, 2012

Produced by Bewley's Café Theatre
In Bewley's Café Theatre

Directed by Michael James Ford

Set Design: Andrew Murray

Lighting Design: Colm Maher

Costume: Eimear Farrell

With: Peter Gaynor/Elliot Moriarty, Rebecca Grimes and Sam Ford