Candida at Orange Tree Theatre
“Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding,” uttered the late and great photographer Diane Arbus, her citation the centrepiece of playwright Bernard Shaw’s 1894 comedy, Candida. After learning that his marriage may be on its last legs, Christian Socialist Reverend James Mavor Morell (Martin Hutson) must assure his beloved wife Candida (Claire Lams) that their relationship has all it takes to withstand the test of time, while dismissing the advances of a certain Eugene Marchbanks (Joseph Potter), whose elegies and heavy-hearted recitals for the strong-willed Candida threaten to destroy the very essence of the couple’s love.
Artistic director Paul Miller offers a truly visionary experience with this production, now showing at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre. Set in a Victorian-styled drawing room of a house in the suburbs of London, the backdrop not only indicates the era in which this piece finds itself, it proceeds to explain the current state of affairs in the Morell household; inundated with business and activism, Reverend Morell has very little time to attend to his spouse, paving the way for the melodramatic, poetic Marchbanks to make his soulful mark on her instead. Superbly performed by all six members of the cast – with a special mention going out to Potter, who proves an emotional powerhouse as he makes his professional stage debut, and Sarah Middleton, the Reverend’s stiff-upper-lipped secretary Miss Proserpine Garnett, whose reserved personality and wit offer much of the show’s comedic stance – Candida is a production of many shades, and of many surprises.
The women really do come out on top in this piece. Written at a time when the literary world had come to address a woman’s statutory rights, Candida sees its titular character exercising independence from her male counterparts. At the end of the day, her romantic future is for her to decide. And she has her reasons why.
Photos: Johan Persson
Candida is at Orange Tree Theatre from 22nd November until 11th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.