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While some of Shaw’s earlier plays are still performed, his later plays, such as the ones in this volume, are barely known. As the collective title indicates, the themes here are political; yet, frankly, it is doubtful how seriously we can now take Shaw as a political thinker. Despite writing in the 1930s, he has little to say of the nature of totalitarianism: although he While some of Shaw’s earlier plays are still performed, his later plays, such as the ones in this volume, are barely known. As the collective title indicates, the themes here are political; yet, frankly, it is doubtful how seriously we can now take Shaw as a political thinker. Despite writing in the 1930s, he has little to say of the nature of totalitarianism: although he satirises Fascist dictators in “Geneva”, the satire is disappointingly mild. Neither did Shaw appear to foresee (on the evidence of these plays, at least) the imminent collapse of the British Empire.But it is Shaw the dramatist rather than Shaw the political philosopher who still holds our attention – even in plays as explicitly political as these. He had a sharp intellect and a quirky sense of humour, and his dialogue still glints and sparkles: he couldn’t write a dull line if he tried. No matter how serious the themes he addresses, the crispness of his writing and his lightness of touch still scintillate.Shaw seems, perhaps unfairly, out of fashion nowadays. But even in these lesser-known works, he demonstrates his matchless ability, still undimmed, to provoke and to entertain.


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While some of Shaw’s earlier plays are still performed, his later plays, such as the ones in this volume, are barely known. As the collective title indicates, the themes here are political; yet, frankly, it is doubtful how seriously we can now take Shaw as a political thinker. Despite writing in the 1930s, he has little to say of the nature of totalitarianism: although he While some of Shaw’s earlier plays are still performed, his later plays, such as the ones in this volume, are barely known. As the collective title indicates, the themes here are political; yet, frankly, it is doubtful how seriously we can now take Shaw as a political thinker. Despite writing in the 1930s, he has little to say of the nature of totalitarianism: although he satirises Fascist dictators in “Geneva”, the satire is disappointingly mild. Neither did Shaw appear to foresee (on the evidence of these plays, at least) the imminent collapse of the British Empire.But it is Shaw the dramatist rather than Shaw the political philosopher who still holds our attention – even in plays as explicitly political as these. He had a sharp intellect and a quirky sense of humour, and his dialogue still glints and sparkles: he couldn’t write a dull line if he tried. No matter how serious the themes he addresses, the crispness of his writing and his lightness of touch still scintillate.Shaw seems, perhaps unfairly, out of fashion nowadays. But even in these lesser-known works, he demonstrates his matchless ability, still undimmed, to provoke and to entertain.

31 review for Plays Political: The Apple Cart, On the Rocks, Geneva

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix

    Political Tryptic In which each play is given its own review (The phrases in brackets are my review titles, not Shaw's) THE APPLE CART 3* (The Man Who Would be King) Flattery will get you everywhere. In this opening salvo, good King Magnus is about to be neutralized as a public force by Prime Minister Proteus and his cabinet who seek to have him promise not to make public speeches as these only make their policy proposals unpopular. The dialog in the first act is first rate. Magnus deftly turns the Political Tryptic In which each play is given its own review (The phrases in brackets are my review titles, not Shaw's) THE APPLE CART 3* (The Man Who Would be King) Flattery will get you everywhere. In this opening salvo, good King Magnus is about to be neutralized as a public force by Prime Minister Proteus and his cabinet who seek to have him promise not to make public speeches as these only make their policy proposals unpopular. The dialog in the first act is first rate. Magnus deftly turns the tables on his Ministers by flattering their abilities and neatly ties them up in knots. The 2nd act is takes place between Magnus and his paramour Orinthia where she takes him to task for sublimating himself in the drudgery of politics instead of her. The last act serves to resolve the crisis of the first. Magnus surprises the assembled Ministers by offering to resign - and running for office himself. Realizing they've been outmaneuvered most of the cabinet resigns instead and the country is left as it was at the beginning with the status quo. The apple cart teeters a bit, but no-one dares upset it. In the preface Shaw explains that King and Cabinet are actually powerless to the manipulations of big business, in this case the ominous Breakages, a large consortium has a near monopoly that repairs and replacing items from broken glass to motorcars while it suppresses improvements and inventions that would undermine their repair business. It's a remarkably prescient critique both of outsourcing manufacturing and planned obsolescence. The 2nd act did little to contribute to the whole as it did not modify our expectations of the King and Orinthia and their relationship are unused in the 3rd. Breakages, the supposed villain, is used as a stalking horse for Shaw's ideas on capitalism but the material here is disappointingly thin. ON THE ROCKS 2* (The Ship of State Adrift ) It is 1933 and England's Prime Minister Sir Arthur Chavender is befuddled and adrift, requiring his secretary Hilda to keep him on the rails, all to good comedic effect. Unemployment is rampant, the masses are disaffected and he has little to offer as to a solution. A labourite delegation from the Isle of Cats (sic/Mann) arrives emphasizing the dire nature of the Depression on their lives. In the 2nd act Chavender's politics take a radical turn towards nationalizing everything, even women (there's no sense as to what this is supposed to mean, it's just for comedic effect), and instituting compulsory public service in order to solve the nation's malaise. In this he has the support of the Police, the Navy and Business, this last represented by Sir Jaffna, a renowned plutocrat and Singhalese immigrant. There's also a subplot involving marrying off the Chavender children and by the end of the play the PM and wife are able to depart as empty nesters. The dialog and plotting are only fair and the explanation for Chavender's change of direction weak, however there's opportunity for strong performances by some of the supporting characters such as Aloysia Brollykins an alderwoman from London who wishes to marry Chavender's son and is at odd with the Duke of Domesday over rents on properties that he owns, the Duke who is the tired voice of privileged aristocracy, the socialist Old Hipney who might as well be a role played by Shaw himself, Sir Jaffna who gives a grand speech on his ancestry reminiscent of Disraeli's response to the Irish firebrand Daniel O'Connell. Here preface is more interesting than the play which focuses on the temptation of totalitarianism in government. Shaw begins by expounding on Nazi and Soviet eliminationationism, makes a good quick point about toleration, and then argues that the trial of St. Joan was far more interesting than that of Jesus and that he could write a play (St. Joan) about the former because she rebels against judgment, but then not the latter. Except he then writes a dialog between Pilate and Jesus which, though little happens is actually a reasonably worthwhile discussion about the differences between Rome and Jerusalem. GENEVA 4* (Justice Engages the Tyrants) The third play, Geneva, is the reason that I picked up the book in the first place, as we had seen it last fall at Niagara-on-the-Lake and is the best of the three. Shaw had revised the play 5 times between 1936 and 1947, updating it to fit the circumstances. In keeping with this tradition the version we saw had been modified somewhat more - the Soviet commissar was a woman (think Ninotchka), Ms Begonia Brown was transformed into an American Liberty Belle Brown from Kansas and "The Newcomer" changed from an American to a Canadian. The first act is takes place in the Geneva branch offices of the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation which reports to the League of Nations. In fact it is really just a do-nothing association but on this day it's visited by a variety of supplicants seeking justice. The first is a German Jew who hopes the agency can be used to issue a warrant for the arrest of "Battler" (Hitler) for his crimes against the Jews. Subsequent visitors are in more in the mode of a slapstick farce. A citizen complains about the dictatorial style of the new Prime Minister. An English Bishop comes to complain that his driver has been subverted to become a Communist; this is countered with a Soviet Commissar in close parallel - his domestic has been proselytized by British agents to become a Christian, and what's worse, wishes her/his employer to avoid damnation and be saved. A South American Widow of a wishes to be saved from the necessities of her blood feud. Begonia advises each of these to file warrants as well, setting the wheels in motion. Act II takes place at the offices of the Secretary of the League of Nations. Begonia's actions have precipitated an international crisis as Germany has seceded from the League. Japan has declared war on Russia invoking an alliance with Britain but the colonies have sided against Japan. The British Foreign Minister Sir Orpheus Midlander arrives to discuss the situation and is soon joined by the chief Justice of the International Court. The mood is expository and more of a drawing room comedy. At then end they are joined by Begonia who is rather blasé as to all the commotion she has created. Act 3 however simply crackles with Shavian wit and is Shaw at his beat and all of the previous characters reappear and interact except for the Bishop who died of a heart attack in Act I. Act 4 is the trial with Battler/Hitler, Mussolini/Bede and Franco/Flanco all taking the stand declaring the righteousness of their cause and why the world is unfit to try them. However Shaw's denouement, a bit of deus ex machina, is not entirely satisfying. All fun to read but not Shaw's most compelling work. Recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dr.J.G.

    The Apple Cart:- When in heat of parliamentary debate a member is insulted for his race, he can point out much that is true - who is a native, and who is cultured, for instance. A rational colleague may calmly point out that you are not white, but oatmeal at best. "Chinese call us Pinks; they flatter us". (In fact, the word in Chinese is not Pinks when they speak to other Chinese, it is "barbarian" or "foreign devil", when referring to race of European descent.) A king might be tolerating a beauti The Apple Cart:- When in heat of parliamentary debate a member is insulted for his race, he can point out much that is true - who is a native, and who is cultured, for instance. A rational colleague may calmly point out that you are not white, but oatmeal at best. "Chinese call us Pinks; they flatter us". (In fact, the word in Chinese is not Pinks when they speak to other Chinese, it is "barbarian" or "foreign devil", when referring to race of European descent.) A king might be tolerating a beautiful attractive mistress and far more at ease with the wife he is comfortable with. When a popular monarch is persuaded to abolish monarchy it is just possible the monarch might stand for office and have all on office thoroughly routed. Just a few of the gems from the play. Delightful as most work from the writer, and one of the most delightful at that. Monday, September 22, 2008. .................................................................................... .................................................................................... On The Rocks:- .................................................................................... .................................................................................... Geneva:- .................................................................................... ....................................................................................

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Meeuwis

    "The Apple Cart" is the first of these plays, and by far the best. I would go so far as to say that it's the only one that actually stands on its own as a play. As in the two other pieces in the book, this play discusses political philosophies. (And, as Wikipedia notes, "Shaw based King Magnus largely on himself"--you don't say.) The last two plays are more discussions, frankly, than anything else, with characters delivering page-long diatribes about whatever the hell, usually answered by furthe "The Apple Cart" is the first of these plays, and by far the best. I would go so far as to say that it's the only one that actually stands on its own as a play. As in the two other pieces in the book, this play discusses political philosophies. (And, as Wikipedia notes, "Shaw based King Magnus largely on himself"--you don't say.) The last two plays are more discussions, frankly, than anything else, with characters delivering page-long diatribes about whatever the hell, usually answered by further page-long diatribes. As the above description of the book notes, Shaw loves him some dictatorship. The line between preface and play, never particularly strong anywhere in his writing, pretty much breaks down by the last of these plays, which I (motivated and with a job that pays me to do this) found very hard to finish. I realize that calling Shaw lacking in objectivity is like calling him Irish, but in the last two plays his attitudes toward the Russian state--and, yes, to its, ahem, stricter political policies--is deeply troubling. Having by this point in his life settled into Famous Loon status, Shaw now suggests that famous loons should rule populations more generally. Bad politics, and barely drama.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Devin

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alix

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  8. 4 out of 5

    Manik Sukoco

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erik

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaka

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Brown

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna Bayes

  13. 4 out of 5

    Genevieve

  14. 5 out of 5

    Naeem

  15. 4 out of 5

    Saima Suhaib

  16. 4 out of 5

    William Gortowski

  17. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jinx:The:Poet {the Literary Masochist, Ink Ninja & Word Roamer}

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zienab Youssef

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Maelstrom

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wagsy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ricardo Celis

  24. 5 out of 5

    Twinkal Tandel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hora

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Ryan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sinan Öner

  28. 5 out of 5

    Haruto

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed Mansour

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Wilcox

  31. 4 out of 5

    Chafarín

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