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 The Theatreguide.London Review

You Never Can Tell
Garrick Theatre            Winter 2005-2006

Shaw's 1899 comedy is, unsurprisingly, full of wit and barbed social comment but, more surprisingly, also warm and romantic. Give yourself over to its gentle rhythms, and you'll have a wonderful time.

And it has the unmatchable Edward Fox at its centre.

A thoroughly modern woman of the era returns to England with her adult children after living abroad and encounters the stuffy Victorian husband she left eighteen years ago.

Were that not culture clash enough, her elder daughter, raised to be the no-nonsense New Woman of the new century, meets an impoverished dentist with a propensity for falling in love.

Stolid convention clashes with determined unconventionality, reason with romance, and the most striking thing about Shaw's uncharacteristically all-embracing comedy is that everyone comes out looking equally foolish, equally wise and equally endearing.

Mother is forced to admit that all her scientific feminism leaves her totally unequipped for emotional situations. Father finds the unstrained attractiveness of his rediscovered family softening him.

The amorous dentist proves more clever than he seemed, knowing exactly how to woo a New Woman, and the girl takes to the romantic game like a natural.

And watching over all of this, like the spirit of Shaw himself, is the head waiter of the hotel in which it all takes place, who has an uncanny ability to be present whenever a wry comment or bit of wisdom is needed.

And so what seems like a peripheral role becomes the moral and comic backbone of the play, with the wonderful Edward Fox quietly and slyly stealing every scene through what amounts to a master class in underplaying.

Ryan Kiggell and Nancy Carroll are attractive as the lovers, Diana Quick and Ken Bones solidly supporting as the parents.

Sinead Matthews and Matthew Dunphy capture the irresistible perkiness of the younger brother and sister, and Michael Mears is droll as a barrister who leans more to common sense than the letter of the law.

Peter Hall, whose work has been uneven in recent years, directs with a masterfully light touch that creates and sustains the delicate bubble of comedy and romance.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  You Never Can Tell - Garrick Theatre 2005
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