|Shakes versus Shav|
Lanchester's 1953 published version, depicting the Shakespeare and Shaw puppets
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Date premiered||August 9, 1949|
|Place premiered||Lyceum Hall, Malvern|
|Subject||Shakespeare and Shaw bicker about who is the better writer|
Shakes versus Shav (1949) is a puppet play written by George Bernard Shaw. It was Shaw's last completed dramatic work. The play runs for 10 minutes in performance and comprises a comic argument between Shaw and Shakespeare, with the two playwrights bickering about who is the better writer as a form of intellectual equivalent of Punch and Judy.
The play was written by Shaw for the Lanchester Marionettes who were based in their own theatre in Foley House, Malvern, Worcestershire, England. The company's founders, Waldo and Muriel Lanchester, performed regularly in the Malvern Festival. Shaw, having seen their performances over the years, wrote Shakes versus Shav for the company in 1949.The play was the last expression of Shaw's long-standing "debate" with Shakespeare and critique of what he called bardolatry. He had earlier portrayed Shakespeare in his skit The Dark Lady of the Sonnets .
Archibald Henderson points out that the play draws on a long tradition of satirical sketches comparing Shaw to Shakespeare, dating back to 1905, when a play by J. B. Fagan with the very similar title Shakespeare vs. Shaw was produced at the Haymarket Theatre. This sketch was in the form of a court case in which Shakespeare sues Shaw following a lecture Shaw had given earlier in the year in which he had said that Shakespeare was a "narrow minded middle class man" with "no religion, no politics, no great concerns". Shaw often participated in these skits, by lending costumes, or even writing dialogue for one entitled His Wild Oat (1926). The ghosts of Shakespeare and Shaw also appear in Back to G.B.S.; or A Midsummer Nightmare (1932), a fantasia set in the year 2156, when the two playwrights have become confused with each other. Another, Bernard Shaw Arrives: A Fantasy in One Act was a parody of Don Juan in Hell in which Shaw, Shakespeare and Mephistopheles engage in a debate.
William Shakespeare arrives in Malvern, seeking the upstart Shaw, quoting lines from his own plays. Shaw appears and Shakespeare punches him to the ground. He starts to count him out, but Shaw leaps up and punches Shakespeare to the ground. Shakespeare bounds back too. They start to argue. Shaw claims that Macbeth has been bettered by Scott's novel Rob Roy , and "proves" the point by staging a fight between the ghosts of the two Scots, which Rob Roy wins.
Shaw then asserts that Adam Lindsay Gordon has outdone Shakespeare's verse, quoting the lines "The beetle booms adown the glooms/And bumps among the clumps" (in fact a garbled version of lines by James Whitcomb Riley). Shakespeare laughs at this. He tells Shaw that he could never have written Hamlet or King Lear . Shaw replies that Shakespeare could not have written Heartbreak House , and creates a pastiche of his own play with the characters posed in imitation of John Everett Millais' painting The North-West Passage .
Shakespeare defends the emotional power of his work. Shaw defends the practical value of his. Shaw ends by quoting Shakespeare's own words and bringing into being a small light to symbolise his own reputation. Shakespeare puts out the light and the play ends.
Waldo Lanchester carved the six marionettes (heads were carved by Jack Whitehead) and Muriel costumed them, having sought advice from Scotland on the correct tartans for Macbeth and Rob Roy.The Shaw puppet is now housed in the George Bernard Shaw Museum, Shaw's Corner, at Ayot St Lawrence, the Shakespeare puppet is in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the other four puppets - Macbeth, Rob Roy, Captain Shotover and Ellie Dunn - are in the Staffordshire County Museum at Shugborough Hall.
In the original production the dialogue was pre-recorded by actors, and broadcast during the performance. The Lanchesters had to synchronise the puppetry with the recording. Lewis Casson voiced Shakespeare, and Ernest Thesiger was Shaw. Russell Thorndike and Archie Duncan voiced Macbeth and Rob Roy respectively. Cecil Trouncer and Isabel Dean voiced Shotover and Ellie.
In 2007 the play was revived by Henry Bell at the Orange Tree Theatre with Dudley Hinton and John Paul Connelly playing the two principal parts written for puppets. John Thaxter of The Stage described the production as "history making".
George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Punch and Judy is a traditional puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically Mr. Punch and one other character who usually falls victim to Punch's slapstick. It is often associated with traditional British culture. The various episodes of Punch comedy—often provoking shocked laughter—are dominated by the clowning of Mr. Punch.
Charles Laughton was an English stage and film actor. Laughton was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and first appeared professionally on the stage in 1926. In 1927, he was cast in a play with his future wife Elsa Lanchester, with whom he lived and worked until his death.
Puppetry is a form of theatre or performance that involves the manipulation of puppets – inanimate objects, often resembling some type of human or animal figure, that are animated or manipulated by a human called a puppeteer. Such a performance is also known as a puppet production. The script for a puppet production is called a puppet play. Puppeteers use movements from hands and arms to control devices such as rods or strings to move the body, head, limbs, and in some cases the mouth and eyes of the puppet. The puppeteer sometimes speaks in the voice of the character of the puppet, while at other times they perform to a recorded soundtrack.
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was an English actress with a long career in theatre, film and television.
A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations. A marionette's puppeteer is called a marionettist. Marionettes are operated with the puppeteer hidden or revealed to an audience by using a vertical or horizontal control bar in different forms of theatres or entertainment venues. They have also been used in films and on television. The attachment of the strings varies according to its character or purpose.
The Scottish play and the Bard's play are euphemisms for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first is a reference to the play's Scottish setting, the second a reference to Shakespeare’s popular nickname. According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre, other than as called for in the script while rehearsing or performing, will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition also forbids quoting lines from the play within a theatre except as part of an actual rehearsal or performance of the play.
Bardolatry is the worship, particularly when considered excessive, of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare has been known as "the Bard" since the eighteenth century. One who idolizes Shakespeare is known as a Bardolator. The term Bardolatry, derived from Shakespeare's sobriquet "the Bard of Avon" and the Greek word latria "worship", was coined by George Bernard Shaw in the preface to his collection Three Plays for Puritans published in 1901. Shaw professed to dislike Shakespeare as a thinker and philosopher because Shaw believed that Shakespeare did not engage with social problems as Shaw did in his own plays.
Heartbreak House: A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes is a play written by George Bernard Shaw, first published in 1919 and first played at the Garrick Theatre in November 1920. According to A. C. Ward, the work argues that "cultured, leisured Europe" was drifting toward destruction, and that "Those in a position to guide Europe to safety failed to learn their proper business of political navigation". The "Russian manner" of the subtitle refers to the style of Anton Chekhov, which Shaw adapts.
H. K. Ayliff was an English theatre director who directed Shakespeare in contemporary dress as early as the 1920s, as well as Yellow Sands on Broadway.
Sir Barry Vincent Jackson was an English theatre director, entrepreneur and the founder of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and, alongside George Bernard Shaw, the Malvern Festival.
The Dark Lady of the Sonnets is a 1910 short comedy by George Bernard Shaw in which William Shakespeare, intending to meet the "Dark Lady", accidentally encounters Queen Elizabeth I and attempts to persuade her to create a national theatre. The play was written as part of a campaign to create a "Shakespeare National Theatre" by 1916.
A puppet is an object, often resembling a human, animal or mythical figure, that is animated or manipulated by a person called a puppeteer. The puppeteer uses movements of their hands, arms, or control devices such as rods or strings to move the body, head, limbs, and in some cases the mouth and eyes of the puppet. The puppeteer often speaks in the voice of the character of the puppet, and then synchronizes the movements of the puppet's mouth with this spoken part. The actions, gestures and spoken parts acted out by the puppeteer with the puppet are typically used in storytelling. Puppetry is a very ancient form of theatre which dates back to the 5th century BC in Ancient Greece. There are many different varieties of puppets, and they are made from a wide range of materials, depending on their form and intended use. They range from very simple in construction and operation to very complex.
Too True to Be Good (1932) is a comedy written by playwright George Bernard Shaw at the age of 76. Subtitled "A Collection of Stage Sermons by a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature", it moves from surreal allegory to the "stage sermons" in which characters discuss political, scientific and other developments of the day. The second act of the play contains a character based on Shaw's friend T. E. Lawrence.
The Puppet Theatre Barge is a unique, fifty-seat marionette theatre on a converted barge in London. The theatre presents puppet shows for children and adults and is moored in Little Venice throughout the year and in Richmond-upon-Thames during the summer.
The Festival Theatre, now known as Malvern Theatres, is a theatre complex on Grange Road in Malvern, Worcestershire, England. Malvern Theatres, housed in the Winter Gardens complex in the town centre of Great Malvern, has been a provincial centre for the arts since 1885. The theatre became known for its George Bernard Shaw productions in the 1930s and from 1977 onwards, along with the works of Edward Elgar. Up until 1965, 19 different plays of Shaw were produced at the Malvern Festival Theatre, and six premiered here, including The Apple Cart at the opening Malvern Festival in 1929, Geneva, a Fancied Page of History in Three Acts in August 1938 and In Good King Charles's Golden Days in August 1939.
Cymbeline Refinished (1937) is a play-fragment by George Bernard Shaw in which he writes a new final act to Shakespeare's play Cymbeline. The drama follows from Shaw's longstanding need to reimagine Shakespeare's work, epitomised by his play Caesar and Cleopatra and his late squib Shakes versus Shav.
Macbeth Skit (1916) is a short comic skit by George Bernard Shaw on Shakespeare's portrayal of Macbeth's relationship with Lady Macbeth.
Waldo Sullivan Lanchester (1897–1978) was a British puppeteer who founded the Lanchester Marionettes (1935-1962), a puppet theatre that was based in Malvern, and later in Stratford-upon-Avon. He wrote a book on the revival of puppeteering and commissioned George Bernard Shaw to write his last completed play Shakes versus Shav in 1949. In 1952, Donald W. Seager wrote that "Waldo Lanchester has consistently been associated with all that is best in the puppet theatre." Archibald Henderson called him "England's greatest puppetmaster."
The North-West Passage is an 1874 painting by John Everett Millais. It depicts an elderly sailor sitting at a desk, with his daughter seated in a stool beside him. He stares out at the viewer, while she reads from a log-book. On the desk is a large chart depicting complex passageways between incompletely charted islands.