Reviewed by Paula Citron
John Bull’s Other Island is one of George Bernard Shaw’s most scintillating plays of ideas. The baseline story is two London-based civil engineers, one English, one Irish, going over to Ireland to redevelop land.
Shaw, of course, uses this situation as a way of discussing all manner of the English/Irish question. The play was written in 1904, but with hindsight, we can see how the prescient Shaw is predicting the civil war to come which led to Ireland’s independence.
What is most fascinating is how Shaw uses stereotypes and clichés to address real problems. The great Christopher Newton, former Shaw Festival artistic director, staged the play, and the provocative ideas literally pour out of the dialogue.
Benedict Campbell shines as the tunnel-vision Englishman Tom Broadbent, while Graeme Somerville is heart-breakingly poignant as the homecoming Irishman Larry Doyle. As usual, the Shaw acting ensemble is magnetic.
This is a fast-moving, compelling production.
John Bull’s Other Island continues at the Court House Theatre until Oct. 9.
John Bull’s Other Island
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Christopher Newton
Performed by Benedict Campbell, Graeme Somerville, Jim Mezon Guy Bannerman, Mary Haney, Thom Marriott, Patrick McManus and Severn Thompson
Court House Theatre, Jun. 18 to Oct. 9, 2010