The mischievous, Irish genius George Bernard Shaw couldn’t occupy all of the soapboxes at London’s Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner at the same time – so he wrote plays. Each of his characters articulates one of his views, and his plays give them a forum. And as a wily playwright who knows the limitations of prolonged dialogue, Shaw often delightfully interrupts Act 2 with a captured burglar or a downed aviatrix.
Shaw’s source for “Androcles and the Lion” was Aesop’s famous tale of a Greek tailor who helps a lion, who later remembers the kindness and spares the tailor’s life. In Shaw’s version the tailor is a newborn Christian who is sentenced to “death by lion” in Caesar’s Coliseum. The ploy allows GB to poke his spoon into the stew of faith, religion, martyrdom, loyalty, kindness and patriotism, and give it a quick stir, allowing Realists and Idealists to bubble together.
Shaw sets his play in Rome. But I believe that, as in Shakespeare’s mind, Rome is London. The theme of “empire” and its demands are thinly veiled. And I’ve take the extra step of framing our Parson’s Nose production in the play’s 1912 era, with a British music hall, comic atmosphere – “The Boy in the Gallery”, “I’ve Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts” and “Don’t Go in the Lion’s Cage Tonight, Mother”. As they say, and Shaw knew, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!” We hope you enjoy our effort, and thank you for being the other half of our live Parson’s Nose experience.
By Lance Davis