Theatre review: My Fair Ladies

Everyman, Cork

****

This enjoyable one-man show, written and performed by Des Keogh, is about George Bernard Shaw’s love life.

The Irish playwright and socialist, as well as advocate for women’s rights, was a ladies’ man, susceptible to actresses.

Apparently, he didn’t lose his virginity until he was 29, but more than made up for his late start in the pleasures of the flesh: he married, but was a serial adulterer. Curiously, that marriage, to Charlotte Townsend, was celibate. This isn’t explained in the play, which is largely anecdotal, but not without moments of reflection and an awareness of how Shaw was perceived. “Insufferable” is one description.

Keogh, complete with Shavian whiskers, is a genial presence, portraying Shaw as likeable, but ego-centric. Freud, or any number of psychoanalysts, would have had a field day with Shaw, whose mother neither loved nor hated him. She also did his father “a great wrong by marrying him without caring for him.”

Shaw saw his mother as sexless and surmised that his hard-drinking father must have raped her in order for her to conceive.

Clearly, Shaw had mother issues and set about making up for his poor relationship with the first woman in his life.

He didn’t carry the baggage of original sin, thereby allowing him to have guilt-free relations with women. He once turned down the free-spirited Isadora Duncan, who offered to dance for him naked.

The premise of the show is that Shaw, an elderly man, is addressing an audience in the 1940s, about “one of my favourite topics — myself.” Keogh creates intimacy with the Everyman audience, despite being alone on a big stage.

His comic timing is spot on. The veteran actor clearly relishes his latest role, which is ideal material for a one-man show.

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