Monday, July 27, 2015

The brief but poignant THE TWELVE-POUND LOOK delights and edifies @ Shaw

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they cant find them, make them.” (G. B. Shaw)

J. M. Barrie’s one act drama, “The Twelve-Pound Look,” which is now in production at The Shaw Festival, is a funny, poignant, strong strike for the women’s movement.  It is a quick view (35-minutes) of how a woman can take control of her destiny, break traditional bonds, and lead a worthy life.

In the late 1800s only three major occupations were available to British women:  being a governess, dressmaker or a wife and mother. 

In 1910, when  “The Twelve Pound Look’ opened, based on the encouragement of such writers as G. B. Shaw and J. M. Barrie and early women’s activists, the idea that women could leave the security of being a wife and venture into the world of work was being debated.  But societal  patterns were starting to  recognize that maybe women wanted something more than being an “object d’art” and to be an equal in a marriage.  As a quick study of modern history will reveal, for better or worse, women have come a long way.

When the proverbial curtain goes up on “The Twelve Pound Look,” wealthy Harry Simms is practicing for the ceremony in which he will become a knight.  He is a success!  His finely coiffed and dressed wife’s attempts to insert her ideas into the process are summarily rejected.  She is, of course, “just a woman.” 

A typist is brought in to answer the messages of congratulations which have already started to arrive.

Much to “Sir” Harry’s consternation, the typist turns out to be a woman.  Not just any woman, but his former wife, Kate.  Kate, who, fed up with his controlling ways, demeaning attitudes about women, and view that women are decorations and chattels of men, saved 12 pounds, bought a typewriter, and left him to fend for herself.

In contrast to Harry’s new wife, the beautiful and cowed “Lady” Sims, Kate, has grown into a self-satisfied woman, full of humor and confidence.  How long will it be before wife number two decides to take a stand and no longer be the slave to Harry’s macho control?  Probably not very long, as before Kate leaves, “Lady” Simms asks the price of a typewriter!

Under the focused direction of Lezlie Wade, the Shaw lunch time production is an edifying delight.  From the manly furnished and decorated living room designed by William Schmuck, to the costumes which show the differing attitudes of the two Mrs. Sims, the production is perfectly conceived.  The musical prelude “If Eve Had Left the Apple on the Bough,” a comic opera song by Victor Herbert and Henry Blossom, sets the perfect comic  and ironic attitude.

Neil Barclay is properly filled with pomp and circumstance as Tombes the butler who also acts as the narrator.

The beautiful Kate Besworth is perfectly dressed and coiffed as the cowed Lady Sims.  Her delivery of the play’s final line, the most important utterance of the play, is presented with just the right tone of foreboding doom for Harry and his controlling ways.

Patrick Galligan has the proper air of arrogance and entitlement to make him the villain of the well-conceived piece.

Moya O’Connell makes for a perfect Kate.  Dressed in a business suit, displaying the carriage of a self-respecting woman, she makes it clear that she has achieved her goals in life…becoming an independent woman and living a worthy life!

Capsule judgement:  “The Twelve Pound Look,” is a perfect device to prove that with a focused purpose and a clear outline, it doesn’t need to take hours to make a statement.  The meaningful script gets a delightful and well conceived production.  What a lovely way to spend a  35-minute lunch break.

What: “The Twelve Pound Look:
Where:  Shaw Festival, Court House Theatre
When:  June 11 to September 12, 2015
For tickets or information:   1-800-5111-Shaw or