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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 13. 1969.



Jerome Kitty's Dear Liar is a "comedy of letters" which deals with the correspondence between George Bernard Shaw and Mrs Patrick Campbell. The letters slowly reveal a growing intellectual romance between Shaw, wedded to wife and Words, and the prima donna: a romance which creates a world of difficulties for both public and private figures and which is not even ended by the lady's marriage to George Cornwallis-West.

The correspondence which provides the basis of the play is full of Shavian wit, humour and cynicism as well as Campbellian repostes and opinions which reveal the two characters both as strong individualists as well as a combination in the business of theatre.

Perhaps "combination" is the wrong word to use. There are occasional digressions from the letters, re-enactments of scenes mentioned in them, which show Shaw and Campbell trying to go over scenes from his plays and trying to get on together on a level apart from business. The clashes and interchanges between the eternal feminist, petulent and quick-tempered, and the male egoist, often pompous and self-opinionated, are both exciting and amusing. One wonders how the two ever got anything done together!

The digressions from letters are a welcome and required form of relief in the play and, as such, are supplimented by stretching the actual letter-reading convention almost to the point of destroying it and creating a "straight" play.

Dick Johnstone's production ideas, in all aspects, are very sound and gave the actors a workable basis for developing their characters.

David Williams in his role as G.B.S. was magnificent. Adorned in red beard and plus-fours and pouring out a veritable carnival of words, in a not too-irish accent, Bernard Shaw appeared and grew slowly older and increasingly roguish as the evening went on.

At best, it is difficult to give a convincing portrayal of a man ageing to over eighty, but when that man is still very young in mind and attitude the task is almost impossible. Both actors, faced with similar difficulties, achieved the ageing effect in imperceptible stages until, at the very end, we were faced with a proud, aged actress and a roguish, gruff old man.

Miss Heather Eggleton, perhaps too young and fresh to look physically old, carried the affect off with tremendous grace simply by believing in it herself.

The total effect of the play, the words of Shaw and Campbell, the presentation and production was one which created over two hours of absorbing and lively entertainment at the old Downstage.