It is a fundamental tenet of the West End Whingers’ philosophy that – on the whole – plays should be less long than they actually are. Life is too short. Even Phil’s.
But thankfully it seems that our message is getting through and we are optimistic that theatre may be on the brink of an exciting new revolution in London.
Both Whingers have been increasingly grumpy over the last few days as the prospect of visiting the National Theatre next Monday looms. Why they booked to see George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan is a mystery. The running time is currently quoted as “3 hours 5 mins inc interval – provisional” and we know what that means at the National.
But here’s an interesting item in today’s Telegraph that suggests that our concerns are neither unique nor new and indeed are being addressed. Apparently:
Critics of the original production in New York suggested that St Joan could be trimmed down from three and a half hours. “It will probably happen when I am no longer in control of the performing rights,” said Shaw, who took the view that a longer play represented better value for money. “So perhaps it will be as well for the public to see the play while I am still alive.”
No student of logic, he, then.
It goes on to report that directrix Marianne Elliot has been valiantly working with playwright Samuel Adamson to cut Joan down to size:
“I didn’t feel an audience sitting there till 11.30 would particularly thank me,” she says. “I read that one theatre manager complained to Shaw that all the buses and trains had finished. People couldn’t get home. He just said, ‘Put on other buses.’ “
There are just so many reasons to be grateful that GBS is dead.
But interestingly the Telegraph also mentions that Shaw wrote the play for Dame Sybil Thorndike (right) and that:
Thorndike was over 40 when she first played Joan of Arc in 1923 and, although her character is burnt at the stake at the age of 19, she went on playing her until she was practically 60.
Now that we would happily watch until the cows come home.
Indeed, although we have nothing against Anne-Marie Duff yet, we would like Elliot to consider a last minute change of cast for the role of Joanie.
How about Liz Smith, Doreen Mantle or Elaine Stritch?