Bernard Shaw returns home to Ayot St Lawrence for performances of Village Wooing at the Palladian Church

Joe Sargent and Maryann O'Brien star in Village Wooing, which is directed by Jonas Cemm.

Joe Sargent and Maryann O'Brien star in Village Wooing, which is directed by Jonas Cemm. - Credit: SHAW2020

A Bernard Shaw play will be performed in a church not far from the celebrated Irish playwright's former home in Ayot St Lawrence.

Village Wooing, A Comedietta for Two Voices, by Bernard Shaw, will be performed at The Palladian Church in the Hertfordshire countryside on Friday, August 13 and Saturday, August 14.

SHAW2020 presents this knockabout battle of the sexes in a Shaw Society sponsored production.

SHAW2020 presents Village Wooing by Bernard Shaw at The Palladian Church in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire.

SHAW2020 presents Village Wooing by Bernard Shaw at The Palladian Church in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. - Credit: SHAW2020

Village Wooing is a charming two-hander in which the characters, simply named ‘A’ and ‘Z’, play a relentless game of cat and mouse across land and sea.

This hour-long play has had many incarnations, most notably in a 1979 ITV production, starring Richard Briers as ‘A’ and Dame Judi Dench, a Shaw Society vice-president, as ‘Z’.

“It’s wonderful to see Shaw’s plays being kept alive, and to such a high standard by SHAW2020. Long may they continue,” said Dench, who also played M in the Bond films.

Maryann O'Brien plays 'Z' in Village Wooing.

Maryann O'Brien plays 'Z' in Village Wooing. - Credit: Supplied by SHAW2020

SHAW2020 is a limited theatre company founded by theatre professionals who are members of The Shaw Society.

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It is dedicated to the performance, exploration, and adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's works.

Their focus is to bring Bernard Shaw’s theatre and writings – including those of his contemporaries and those he influenced – to a wider, more diverse audience.

Joe Sargent as Nicola in 2019's Arms and the Man.

Joe Sargent as Nicola in 2019's Arms and the Man. - Credit: SHAW2020

In 2019, SHAW2020 performed at The Palladian Church, to sell-out audiences, with a five-star reviewed tour of Shaw's Arms and the Man.

They hoped to repeat the success in 2020 with the infamous Mrs Warren's Profession. 

However, as 2020 was the year that wasn’t, SHAW2020 and The Shaw Society transferred their performances online, presenting a programme of Zoom theatre events entitled ‘Sharing Shaw’ and the YouTube series ‘Talking Shaw’.

Now, in 2021, they are delighted to be flexing their live theatre muscles once more after a year of online content.

An anti-romantic Shavian romance, the production of Village Wooing stars Joe Sargent and Maryann O'Brien, and is directed by SHAW2020 artistic director Jonas Cemm.

Joe Sargent plays 'A' in Village Wooing, which can be seen at The Palladian Church in Ayot St Lawrence.

Joe Sargent plays 'A' in Village Wooing, which can be seen at The Palladian Church in Ayot St Lawrence. - Credit: Supplied by SHAW2020

Cemm and Sargent have also written and will both appear in this year’s Welwyn Garden City pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at Campus West.

Village Wooing will begin its summer tour in Ayot St Lawrence at the village's neoclassical church, where the local postmistress, Jisbella Lyth, who is the inspiration for the character 'Z', is buried.

Maryann O'Brien as 'Z' at the Actor's Centre in 2018.

Maryann O'Brien as 'Z' at the Actor's Centre in 2018. - Credit: Supplied by SHAW2020

The production will then visit London as part of the Camden Fringe festival.

Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist.

His influence on western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death in 1950 and beyond.

Ayot St Lawrence's Palladian Church

Ayot St Lawrence's Palladian Church - Credit: Amy Pettingill

With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation.

He was awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature and an Oscar for his screenplay of Pygmalion in 1939.

George Bernard Shaw's home Shaw's Corner at Ayot St Lawrence. Picture: Alan Davies

Bernard Shaw's home Shaw's Corner at Ayot St Lawrence. - Credit: Alan Davies

Shaw's Corner, in Ayot St Lawrence, was the home of Shaw and his wife, Charlotte Payne-Townshend. It is now a National Trust property.

Inside the house, an Edwardian villa, the rooms remain much as Shaw left them.

The Palladian Church, where Shaw sometimes played the organ, is a stone’s throw from the house and a couple of miles from Wheathampstead.

Director Jonas Cemm.

Director Jonas Cemm. - Credit: Jonas Cemm

Actor and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth is a big fan of SHAW2020.

He said: "Shaw’s wonderful creations are brought to life in impeccable style by SHAW2020, a company dedicated to understanding and celebrating the genius of the genius who was GBS."

Village Wooing is on at The Palladian Church, Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, on Friday, August 13 at 7.30pm, and on Saturday, August 14 at 3pm and 7.30pm. 

Tickets are available from www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/village-wooing-tickets-156089874015

Visit www.shawsociety.org.uk for full tour details.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, The Shaw Society was founded on Bernard Shaw’s 85th birthday – July 26, 1941.

The charity's purpose is to promote his plays and other writings, bringing together academics, theatre professionals, and Shaw fans.

Playwright Bonnie Greer OBE, a vice president of the society, said: "SHAW2020: Their mission to bring Shaw's works to a wider more diverse audience is ground-breaking and important." 

Join The Shaw Society poster.

Join The Shaw Society poster. - Credit: Shaw Society


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