Ben Sanders as O’Flaherty (left) and Patrick McManus as General Sir Pearce Madigan (right) prove you can take the boy out of Ireland but not always take Ireland out of the boy. The Shaw Festival presentation of O’Flaherty V.C. humoursly shows the kind of trouble a young man can cause when he doesn’t always come clean about his true motivations.

ARMED WITH LAUGHTER

What is it about heroes that forever hold a warm spot in our hearts? It might be the ability to achieve feats of bravery we may never imagine ourselves doing or perhaps it’s their unrequited commitment to duty and honour that’s unmatchable in our daily journeys.

Anyway you size them up—it’s always observatory bliss and in Bernard Shaw’s crafty creation, there’s always a healthy dose of irony to keep us stitches.

But the playwright himself has not underscored the misery of marching off to war to meet certain death in this piece. Instead decides to have some good ol’ fashion fun with just four characters in suggesting that the front lines of armed conflict in the trenches can sometimes be a simpler place than the front lines of battle through domestic life with an Irish mother.

For what it’s worth, V.C. stands for the Victoria Cross, made from the metal of Russian canons, it’s the highest award given to British armed forces. A total of 1,700 handed out (including a few Canadians and Australians) but now it’s reserved for English soliders. But that’s history and this is seductively entertaining theatre so let’s return to the relevant facts.

It’s a difficult sport O’Flaherty (Ben Sanders) has found himself in telling his dominant mother (Tara Rosling) he’s off to fight the Bosh in 1915 Europe but hasn’t been too detailed about the specifics. He does spell out the error of his ways to General Sir Pearce Madigan (Patrick McManus) opting not to touch this conflict with a 10 foot pole.

Ben Sanders is comically liberating military form in this light and fluffy tale while Patrick McManus’ patriotism is polished to a shine with every role he touches.   And you’re gonna love the feisty Tara Rosling who puts her foot down as the quick tempered matriarch who makes it’ painfully clear she calls the shots.

Get your Irish on for this lunch hour gem; you’ll be pleasantly surprised how armed this show is with laughter.

 

O’FLAHERTY V.C. by Berhard Shaw May 31 – October 6, 2018 SHAW FESTIVAL, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario TICKETS www.shawfest.com 1-800—511-SHAW $25.00 – $117.00 CAST Patrick McManus, Tara Rosling, Ben Sanders, Gabriella Sundar Singh DIRECTOR Kimberley Rampersad SET AND COSTUMES Sue LePage LIGHTING Mikael Kangas

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