In a Victorian drawing room equipped with a mish-mash of period furniture matched to create a home rather than a showpiece, White Heron Theatre’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida includes various degrees of posturing in the same mixed manner.
A parson full of arm gesticulations and socialist morals is challenged by a poetic youth full of physical and verbal affectations for the love of the parson’s wife Candida. She herself is something of an enigma for much of the play, more spoken about than speaking, until your desire to know what she thinks and wants is an appetite well whetted – all credit to Shaw‘s script and to the playing of it here. Though, the revealing of what makes her tick come the end is the one thing that does not, perhaps, develop as fully as one might wish.
Other characters include a fairly simple-minded curate, the parson’s adoring secretary and Candida’s grasping father, all of whom have moments in which to shine. In this production, the cast is well chosen to be individually strong and to work nicely in contrast to each other. Costume is pleasingly period, though with touches – a garish colour or strange appliqué here, clothing not quite fitting there – that are not quite of the quality of the rest of the production, with its fine furnishings, simple frames for window and doorway, and use of the wide staired sides for exits and entrances that continue to allow views and explorations of character.
Shaw’s feminist play, from the 1890s, explores love, jealousy, belonging and relationships between and within the sexes, with men more obviously the butt of gentle ridicule, but the quirks of women – as seen by Shaw – also in the limelight. White Heron Theatre Company presents all of this with understanding, clarity and good humour, not afraid to make bold choices in acting and direction that grow from potentially irritating to satisfyingly justified and entertaining (the youth’s affectations in particular) and, if Candida’s final explanation of her life and choices is not completely relatable, this is a small lack in an otherwise highly accomplished production.