Satire on relationships

LIVELY: A scene from George Bernard Shaw's "You Never Can Tell" staged at Kodaikanal Christian College. Photo: R. Ashok   | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

Kodaikanal Christian College students and teachers could not have staged Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell at a better time when International Women’s Day is being celebrated everywhere. The plot rallies around the matriarch Mrs Clandon, a fighting single mother against suppression of women. The play also highlights how unpredictable people can be in their actions.

After 18 years of self-imposed exile in Madeira, Mrs. Clandon returns to England with her unruly teenage twins and a forthright daughter. She settles down in a seaside hotel. She is progressive and has brought up three kids on her own. But their new life is increasingly complicated by her estranged husband Fergus Crampton and a love-struck dentist Valentine.

The introductory scene exposes the characters and gradually moves into the arguments about marriage, society and parenthood. The play effectively captures Mrs Clandon’s bitter experience in her married life. She also makes observations on women’s lack of autonomy. Her eldest daughter Gloria, a haughty disciple of her mother, is adamant and questions the institution of marriage – until she falls in love with Valentine.

Later in the day, on the terrace of the hotel resort, all the characters of the play meet at a lunch hosted by Mrs. Clandon. She invites her solicitor and one time suitor, Finch McComas, specifically to tell their children about the long-lost father. They come to learn that Crampton is none other than their father. McComas reports that Crampton is demanding custody of the twins and observes that, though Crampton is bad-mannered, he is a kind man who has been unfairly dealt with in the separation deal. Just when tempers fly high, Walter Boon, ‘the perfect waiter’, steps in and diplomatically eases the situation and tells them his son Bohun, a distinguished attorney for the queen, would be able to solve the problem.

Meanwhile differences between Gloria and the dentist dissolve in a carnival finale. That evening, the visiting attorney brings about a friendly reconciliation between the members of the family and between Valentine and Gloria. When Valentine, observes that he feels like “a married man already,” the waiter, Walter, comforts him about marriage: though his wife, like Gloria, “was of a commanding and masterful disposition,” his marriage turned out very well.

The play happens at three floor levels. Mr. Crampton resides at the ground floor. Valentine occupies the first floor while the terrace is where Mrs. Clandon and her daughters invite their friends for lunch.

“We stage plays during Christmas and Easter. Though our experience is new, it shows the importance we give to cultural activities,” says Sam Abraham, Chairman and Principal of the college.

Director of the play, L.M. Joseph Paul Bezaleel brought out his theatre experience from The American College to fore. He did well to compress the play to 120-minutes. “It was difficult. I was literally in dilemma, what to leave and what not to. But then I managed finally. I chose this play for its relevance even today,” he says.

Sarah of II M.S.W., who played Gloria Clandon did her role to perfection. Petite Sarah was in her elements in the scenes where she argues with Valentine (played by Gowthaman). But Vaishu, III B.A. English, donning Dolly (one of the twins), stole the show. She and Arpan (Philip Clandon) attracted attention by playfully teasing each other on stage.

With the look of a bard and the respect he earns from the rest of the characters, Prof. R. Nedumaran (Walter, the perfect waiter) suited well for the role. He gives the title of the play, probably the best line, when he explains the institution of marriage and his principles in life.

Reby of I M.S.W. who donned the role of Mrs. Clandon amazed the audience with her voice clarity and dialogue delivery. Samuel Arputha Raj’s sprightly music added sheen to the play.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 6:41:10 AM |

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