THE MILLIONAIRESS
Rose Theatre, London SW3
Opened 10 December, 1991

A protagonist who screws pensioners for personal convenience, who fights every legal claim with a counter-claim for ten times the amount and who still embraces socialism... but Robert Maxwell had barely hit puberty when this was written. As art surpasses life, Shaw's protagonist is female; as it's more reductive, the prospect of a happy marriage to a selfless Egyptian doctor can claim to erase all prior atrocities. Shaw requires more thought than modern audiences are accustomed to giving; he's not best served by a stultifying two-and-a-half hour performance with the pace of an animated HeatElectric commercial.

In misplaced compensation for this, there's a breadth of characterisation which skims over his eddying undercurrents: the millionairess and the doctor perform an overt mating dance from the first, with no intrigue, no chemistry and none of the social sophistication which lets her, in the final scene, contemplate her current husband's mistress with relative equanimity. Robin Brockman's production has the makings of a useful revival, but it needs to shift up two gears.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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