Director Brigid Larmour on Arms and the Man
7 September 2016
Bernard Shaw’s sparkling romantic comedy Arms and the Man marks a return to more classical theatre at Watford Palace this autumn. Director, Brigid Larmour, tells us all about it…
We’ve done a huge range of exciting new plays over the past few years, but I really felt it was time for some classic comedy! I’ve loved Arms and the Man since I was sixteen and have always wanted to direct it.
Born in Dublin in 1856, Shaw was one of the most prolific playwrights of his time. He also has a strong local connection. Can you tell us more?
For the last forty years of his life, Shaw and his wife, Charlotte, lived in a big Arts and Crafts house known as Shaw’s Corner, in nearby Ayot St Lawrence. Today, the house is a National Trust property, and you can go and see exactly how they lived.
Arms and the Man is a piercing satire on Victorian attitudes to love, heroism and war. Are you updating it?
It’s striking how modern the play feels. Shaw is very funny - and of course a bit provocative - about our illusions of love and war. We’re keeping the play in period, but giving it a fresh, modern style. The costumes are inspired by the way Hollywood film designers in the 1930s approached historical period; they kept the traditional shapes but used modern fabrics to add glamour. I like to make classic plays feel more contemporary. When we did As You Like It a few years ago, people thought I’d updated Shakespeare’s language. I hadn’t, I just made sure it was clear and accessible so everyone could enjoy it!
It’s got comedy, romance, glamour; what else can audiences look forward to?
Arms and the Man is a fabulous play. It reminds me of those classic Hollywood comedies with actors like Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, sparring away while desperate for a kiss. We’ll try and give it that same lightness of touch.
Interview by Sophie Sellars