My Dear Miss Terry

The word 'Dear' within the title of this production from Jean Rogers is exactly the right word for the intimate relationship that is evoked from the love letters sent between Irish literary genius George Bernard Shaw (Paddy O'Keeffe) and adored English actress Dame Ellen Terry (Jean Rogers). Opening in complete darkness, it is clear from the off that that this show will be an insight into the private lives of these two lovers. Speaking from beyond the grave, the duo's inclusion of contemporary references, such as wondering if their form of love in the epistolary could be seen as cyber love, was a clever move on Rogers' part as it immediately made all ages feel welcome.

Despite this production detailing a succession of love letters between individuals of a time previous, what evidently remains ageless throughout is the idea of romance.

Despite the love letters often being emotionally-charged, what is also in abundance within them is its humour. With jokes not being spared at Terry's numerous marriages, as well as the Irish stereotype that they are never averse to a fight, Bernard Shaw's quip that Terry was ‘tired of five husbands but never tired of me’, purveys the teasing tone that the two shared. How comfortable the duo feel with regard to this situation is seen in the terms of endearment becoming more tender as the play – and their affair – progresses. The dimmed lighting in certain instances which focuses on just the two of them highlights the ever-increasing closeness of the couple. Stating that they only met twelve times over their thirty years of knowing each other, the odd stumble of words from Paddy O'Keeffe, though perhaps unintentional, only added to the romantic feel of the piece as it coincided with the tongue-tied instances that so often occur in such lustful situations.

The staging of the two tables at opposing ends of the stage initially evokes that we are seeing two people as individuals in their own right. However, what stands out most vividly is the two florally-adorned garden chairs attached together, though facing different directions. With the continuation of the play comes an increase in affection between the literary lovers and the addition of flowers on the chairs to represent the two's natural feelings towards one another, rather than the ones they have to act or write for stage.

Despite this production detailing a succession of love letters between individuals of a time previous, what evidently remains ageless throughout is the idea of romance. Even though an evident plethora of emotions were shown, what truly made this production so enjoyable was the solace that Bernard Shaw and Terry found in one another, away from their otherwise turbulent lives. 

Reviews by Oliver Lugg

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

My Dear Miss Terry..... celebrates the love letters between the Irish literary genius Bernard Shaw and the much adored English actress Dame Ellen Terry.

These evocative and romantic letters, compiled and written into a compelling narrative by Jean Rogers, are regarded by many as the greatest love letters ever written. They are read and explored by Paddy O’Keeffe of the award-winning BERNARD SHAW INVITES YOU, which received five-star reviews and won the Argus Angel Award in the Brighton Fringe, going on to successful runs in London, Dublin and New Delhi; and Jean Rogers, formerly Dolly Skilbeck in Yorkshire Television’s EMMERDALE. Jean enjoyed seasons with Sir Laurence Olivier's Chichester Festival Theatre and was a founder member of his National Theatre Company.

The intimate exchange of letters between playwright and actress paints a vivid picture, through pathos and joy, of Theatre at the end of the nineteenth century on the brink of change.

My Dear Miss Terry... brings an intriguing and almost contemporary feel to the Victorian correspondence which began in 1892 – an interesting and fascinating ‘literary affair’, enjoyed long before the World Wide Web.