Mixed Marriage

In London for the Kipling Conference, I took the opportunity to see Mixed Marriage by StJohn Ervine at the Finborough Theatre. (The Finborough’s programme is always worth checking, as, like the thrice-blessed Orange Tree, it offers the chance to see plays that would never appear anywhere else. In the past I’ve seen Coward’s The Rat Trap and Pinero’s The Enchanted Cottage here.)
Ervine was an Ulsterman, and Mixed Marriage (first presented at the Abbey, Dublin in 1911) is about sectarian strife in Belfast. Rainey is a Protestant trades unionist, keen to get Catholic and protestant workers united in strike action. But when he discovers his son wants to marry a Taig – well, you can guess the rest.
It’s not a great play, but a very solid piece of drama, and very well acted indeed by the cast in this tiny theatre.
If nothing else, it’s a reminder of the divisions in Britain before the Great War. The Irish question is presented here as well-nigh insoluble, as is the industrial question. And gender divisions are painfully apparent, too.
No wonder, when the War came, so many people welcomed it as an opporunity to unite the country and rescue it from bitter squabbling.

2 Comments

  1. Roger
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Ervine lost a leg in WWI.
    Another play by him is The Lady of Belmont,a sequel to The Merchant of Venice, with the nominally christian Shylock, who has become weathy once again, a trusted confidant of the Doge, Antonio constantly retelling the story of how he nearly lost his pound of flesh and the other characters unhappily married.

    • Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      I quite like the sound of that. The Merchant of Venice production at Stratford-upon-Avon this year finishes with very dark hints that none of the marriages will work out. Most of the characters are left looking dazed and terrified at the thought of what they’ve got themselves into. A compelling idea, though it rather mucks up the pattern of Shakespeare’s play.
      The play of Ervine’s that I like is Progress, which he wrote for the London Grand-Guignol season in 1922. About a scientist producing a deadly weapon, and the mother of a soldier killed in the War, determined that the weapon will never be put to use.


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