George Bernard Shaw’s 1909 play of this name, subtitled A Debate in One Sitting, can be seen on stage in Richmond on Thames into the New Year. Happily, I found myself in the audience this Saturday afternoon, at the sign of the Orange Tree, as the cast played out the drama set in a Surrey conservatory on a Saturday afternoon. Act I closes with a plane crashing into the garden outside. Earlier, the character Bentley Summerhays had burst out: “I’m sorry I intruded : I didn’t know.”
In the interval, my neighbour reminisced to me of how he had once arrived at this theatre to find his seat was in the middle of an otherwise occupied row. He thought he would cause less trouble if he climbed into his seat over its back. This was trickier than he anticipated, and his efforts drew attention, so that his eventual success was greeted with a small round of applause.
As I left the theatre, I looked up to see the familiar sight of an aeroplane beginning its descent over Richmond into Heathrow. I walked past seven shop fronts, including the theatre box office and the pawnbroker’s, before passing the head office of Not on the High Street. It was here, in June 2015, that a stowaway met his end on the roof of the building after falling from the undercarriage of a plane arriving in London from Johannesburg .
Says the character Tarleton to the Polish acrobat who escapes from the doomed light aircraft with its pilot:
“I’m in a difficulty. I can’t understand a lady going up in an aeroplane for family reasons. It’s rude to be curious and ask questions; but then it’s inhuman to be indifferent, as if you didn’t care.”