United Players of Vancouver

You Never Can Tell by George Bernard Shaw

Dates and Venue 6 – 29 June 2008 @ 8pm | Jericho Arts Centre

Director Bernard Cuffling Sets John R. Taylor Costumes Sandi McDonald and Catherine E. Carr Lighting Carmen Hung Sound James O’Callaghan Stage Manager Scott Owens

Reviewer Jane Penistan

One of Shaw’s Plays Pleasant, You Never Can Tell is a delightful comedy in which the playwright shows the beginning of the loosening of the rigid rules of social behaviour. For its time, the independent woman of Mrs. Lanfrey Clandon was not always acceptable in good society.

On the other hand, the philandering dentist Valentine would have been considered a young man enjoying the rites of passage. Here was the beginning of women’s lib., still in its whalebone and corsets, but already rebelling against male dominance.

Giving the Clandon family as visitors to the staid Victorian resort of Torquay made them acceptable to respectable society. Shaw’s wit and humour pervade this comedy, enlightened by the sage and observant wisdom of William, the headwaiter at the seaside hotel of the scene.

Mrs. Clandon is the mother of three grown children and an author of books on advanced ideas on housekeeping and the upbringing of children, “They are called Twentieth Century Treatises.” Andrée Karas makes one of her rare and elegant appearances on the UP stage in this role.

Her children are Gloria, a grown up young lady and her mother’s disciple, played by Claire Lindsay. The exuberant twins who rollick their way through the play, are Philip and Dolly (Matthew MacCaul and Missy Cross). Mrs. Clandon’s solicitor is Fergus McComas (Dick Pugh).

It is for a consultation with her legal advisor that Mrs Clandon has brought her children to visit England, from their domicile in Madeira. The unconventional twins invite the dentist, Valentine (Noel Johansen) to lunch at the hotel. From him they learn that in England they are expected to have a father, of whom they know nothing.

Mrs Clandon and Gloria arrive at the dentist’s surgery to accompany the twins back to lunch at the hotel. The dentist prevented from leaving is office by the demand of his landlord who has broken a tooth and needs attention. The landlord, Mr Crampton, in absentia, is invited to lunch, too.

To the astonishment of the family, it transpires that the landlord (Richard Strachan) is the children’s father, and this discovery causes some problems about how he is to be received.

The obliging waiter, William, who knows Crampton, is deputed to receive the guest and explain that it is his family with whom he will be lunching. The wise and tactful William, intelligently and sympathetically played by John Burnside, manages this difficult task with considerable aplomb and exact timing. Polite manners and some forbearance prevail and the meal is completed.

A legal settlement is needed, which must be arbitrated by a lawyer rather than a solicitor. This authoritative legal exquisite is none other than William’s son, Walter Bohun (Tariq Leslie). He manages to quiet the irrepressible twins, make the warring adults see reason and assure Gloria and the impecunious but amorous Valentine that marriage is indeed their future happiness. The family is at last reunited as a family.

The hotel is taken over by the local yacht club for its annual fancy dress ball and all the company are gradually drawn into its enchanting aura, dancing happily into the future.

The wise and philosophical William remains to comment that,” You never can tell” what will transpire, but here peace and harmony seem to be established, but you never can tell.

Bernard Cuffling has directed this play with the sensitivity and wit of a true Shavian. The cast are all in harmony with one another and play well together. Sandi McDonald and Catherine Carr’s women’s dresses are elegant and pleasing and the men’s clothes well chosen. John Taylor’s set is admirable in its ingenuity and adaptability for the different loci of the script. It is always spacious and decorative and well lit by Carmen Hung.

This end-of-season presentation is one of the best of this versatile company’s successful year.

© 2008 Jane Penistan