YESTERDAY, All Saints Day, 40 years ago George Bernard Shaw died. The writings of GBS invariably had an unexpected twist to them, so maybe that is why of all days the almighty chose to call him on November 1.
Shaw wrote 16 Self Sketches, one of which was entitled "What is My Religious Faith?" I suspect it must have been written before his first encounter with the formidable nun who became his great friend, otherwise he would surely have mentioned her. In his sketch Shaw states that by infant baptism he was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland but that he could not believe in more than two tenets of its creed, the communion of saints and the life everlasting.
Even Shaw would hardly have envisaged that 40 years after his death his exchange of letters with the abbess of the Benedictine monastery of Stanbrook would be made into a play.
Hugh Whitemore shows his contempt for the vagaries of our postal services. In his play The Best of Friends, he introduces the personal delivery. Shaw (Frank Thornton) and Dame Laurentia McLachlan, the abbess (Dulcie Gray), speak
their letters to each other. The trio of this excellent play is completed by Michael Denison as Sir Sydney Cockerel], then director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, who had first introduced the playwright to the Benedictine nun.
Hugh Whitemore has not only constructed an ingenious play of which, being partly about himself, the theatre critic, George Bernard Shaw would undoubtedly have approved, but the playwright has also brought to life on the stage three great personalities the like of which we rarely see today.
The Best of Friends finishes at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, this Saturday but continues its tour of Britain opening on November 5 at the Theatre Clwyd, Mold, moving on November 12 to Charter Theatre, Preston, and then on November 19 to Kings Theatre, Edinburgh. The following week it goes to the Empire, Sunderland, finally returning south to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford on December 3. It is worth travelling a long way to see and