G.B.Shaw: Heartbreak House

BBC Radio 3: Sunday Play

Broadcast: Sunday 10th May 1998 @ 7:30 p.m.

When Ellie Dunn joins a house-party at the home of the eccentric Captain Shotover, she causes a stir with her decision to marry for money rather than love, and the Captain's forthright daughter Hesione protests vigorously against the pragmatic young woman's choice. Opinion on the matter quickly divides and a lively argument about money and morality, idealism and realism ensues as Hesione's rakish husband, snobbish sister and Ellie's fiance—a wealthy industrialist—enter the debate.

Written between 1916 and 1917 as war raged across Europe, "Heartbreak House" is a telling indictment of the generation responsible for the First World War. With its bold combination of high farce and bitter tragedy, Shaw's play remains an uncannily prophetic depiction of a society on the threshold of an abrupt awakening.

Because of his controversial political views and discouraged by an unfriendly press, George Bernard Shaw had postponed the production of this, his most lauded anti-war play, until 1920. Shaw's journalistic outcry against World War I not only temporarily derailed his public stature and playwrighting career but almost led to his being tried for treason. "Heartbreak House", his only play during the WWI period, was not surprisingly also his bitterest.

With John Wood [Captain Shotover], Eleanor Bron [Hesione Hushabye], Cheryl Campbell [Lady Ariadne Utterword], Duncan Bell [Hector Hushabye], David Troughton [Boss Mangan], Christopher Good [Mazzini Dunn], Abigail Docherty [Ellie Dunn], Liz Smith [Nurse Guinness], Richard McCabe [Randall], and Norman Rossington [The Burglar].

The flute player was Roland Sutherland

Directed by Janet Whitaker

Re-broadcast on Sunday 21st January 2001 @ 7:30 p.m.

160 min.


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