A Village Wooing, by George Bernard Shaw
Wireless Programmes Palestine Post. Thursday, September 8, 1938
יום חמישי 8 בספטמבר 1938
PALESTINE BROADCASTING SERVICE (PBS): ENGLISH PROGRAMME
10.00 p.m. A Village Wooing, a Comedietta for two Voices by George Bernard Shaw. Part I: En Bateau.
Unfortunately, no recording of the actual broadcast or the transcript has been located.
This particular broadcast is for educational purposes only. It is an RTE (Ireland) radio version starring Cyril Cusack and Siobhán McKenna. With an introduction by Aidan Mathews. and can also be found at: https://www.rte.ie/drama/radio/plays/classic/2012/0403/647039-genres-classic-thevillagewooing/
VILLAGE WOOING: A Comedietta for Two Voices by George Bernard Shaw
FIRST CONVERSATION: The Lounge Deck of the Empress of Patagonia, a Pleasure Ship
The lounge deck of the Empress of Patagonia, a pleasure ship. Two of the deck chairs are occupied by A, a literary looking pale gentleman under forty in green spectacles, a limp black beard, and a tropical suit of white silk, who is writing and does not wish to be disturbed, and Z, a young woman, presentable but not aristocratic, who is bored with her book. She is undressed for bathing, but is very modestly covered up with a not too flamboyant wrap.
Z. Excuse me. Could you tell me the time?
A. [curtly] Eleven.
Z. My watch makes it half past ten.
A. The clocks were put on half an hour last night. We are going east.
Z. I always think it adds to the interest of a voyage having to put on your watch.
A. I am glad you are so easily interested [he resumes his writing pointedly].
Z. The steward will be round with the soup in half an hour. I thought we should have to wait an hour.
A. I never take it. It interrupts my work.
Z. Why do you work all the time? It's not what one comes on a pleasure cruise for, is it?
A. Work is my only pleasure. Z. Oh, thats not good sense, is it? It gives me the pip to see you always sitting there over your writing, and never enjoying yourself, nor even taking a drop of soup. You should get up and have a game of deck quoits: you will feel ever so much better after it.
A. I feel perfectly well, thank you. And I loathe deck games, especially deck quoits. The slapping of those silly things on the deck destroys the quiet of the ship.
Z. Oh, I see. That is why you select this end of the deck. I often wondered why.
A. Within the last fortnight you have inspected the priceless antiquities of Naples, Athens, Egypt, and the Holy Land. Please occupy your mind with them until the soup comes.
Z. I never cared much for geography. Where are we now?
A. We are on the Red Sea.
Z. But it's blue.
A. What did you expect it to be?
Z. Well, I didnt know what color the sea might be in these parts. I always thought the Red Sea would be red.
A. Well, it isnt.
Z. And isnt the Black Sea black?
A. It is precisely the color of the sea at Margate.
Z. [eagerly] Oh, I am so glad you know Margate. Theres no place like it in the season, is there?
A. I dont know: I have never been there.
Z. [disappointed] Oh, you ought to go. You could write a book about it.
A. [shudders, sighs, and pretends to write very hard]!
Z. I wonder why they call it the Red Sea.
A. Because their fathers did. Why do you call America America?
Z. Well, because it is America. What else would you call it?
A. Oh, call it what you like, dear lady; but I have five hundred words to write before lunch; and I cannot do that if I talk to you.
Z. [sympathetically] Yes: it is awful to have to talk to people, isnt it? Oh, that reminds me: I have something really interesting to tell you. I believe the man in the cabin next mine beats his wife.
A. I feel a little like him myself. Some women would provoke any men to beat them.
Z. I will say this for him, that she always begins it.
A. No doubt.
Z. I hate a nagger: dont you?
A. It is your privilege as a woman to have the last word. Please take it and dont end all your remarks with a question.
Z. You are funny.
A. Am I? I never felt less funny in my life.
Z. I can't make you out at all. I am rather good at making out people as a rule; but I cant make head or tail of you.
A. I am not here to be made out. You are not here to make people out, but to revel in the enjoyments you have paid for. Deck tennis, deck quoits, shuffleboard, golf, squash rackets, the swimming pool, the gymnasium all invite you.
Z. I am no good at games: besides, theyre silly. I'd rather sit and talk.
A. Then for heaven's sake talk to somebody else. I have no time for talk. I have to work my passage.
Z. What do you mean: work your passage? You are not a sailor.
A. No. I make a precarious living on board ship by writing the Marco Polo Series of Chatty Guide Books. Unless I complete two thousand words a day I am bankrupt. I cannot complete them if you persist in talking to me.
Z. Do you mean you are writing a book about this cruise?
A. I am trying to--under great difficulties.
Z. Will I be in it?
A. [grimly] You will.
Z. How thrilling! I have never been put in a book before. You will read me what you have written about me, wont you?
A. When the book is published you can read it to your heart's content.
Z. But I should like you to get me right. After all, what do you know about me? I will tell you the whole of my life if you like.
A. Great heavens, NO. Please dont.
Z. Oh, I dont care who knows it.
A. Evidently. You would hardly offer to tell it to a perfect stranger if you cared, or if it was of the smallest interest.
Z. Oh, I'd never think of you as a stranger. Here we are on the same ship, arnt we? And most people would think my life quite a romance. Wouldn't you really like to hear it?
A. No, I tell you. When I want romances I invent them for myself.
Z. Oh, well, perhaps you wouldn't think it very wonderful. But it was a regular treat for me. You may think because I am well dressed and travelling de lucks and all that, that I am an educated lady. But I'm not.
A. I never supposed for a moment that you were.
Z. But how could you know? How did you find out?
A. I didnt find out. I knew.
Z. Who told you?
A. Nobody told me.
Z. Then how did you know?
A. [exasperated] How do I know that a parrot isnt a bird of paradise?
Z. Theyre different.
Z. There you are, you see. But what would you take me for if you met me in a third class carriage?
A. I should not notice you.
Z. I bet you would. I maynt be a beauty; but when I get into a railway carriage every man in it has a look at me.
A. I am not Everyman. Everyman thinks that every woman that steps into a railway carriage may be the right woman. But she is always a disappointment.
Z. Same with the women, isn't it? If you were a woman youd know.
A. I am a woman; and you are a man, with a slight difference that doesnt matter except on special occasions.
Z. Oh, what a thing to say! I never could bring myself to believe that. I know, of course, that men have their weaknesses and their tempers; but all the same there is something wonderful you can get from a man that you never could get from a woman. Dont you think so?
A. Inexperienced men think there is something wonderful you can get from a woman that you never could get from a man. Hence many unhappy marriages.
Z. Are you married?
A. Widower. Are you?
Z. Oh, thats the first time youve asked me a question. We're getting on, arnt we?
A. No. I am not getting on with my work.
Z. You're an intellectual, arn't you?
A. What do you think you mean by an intellectual?
Z. Only that you consider me no better than an idiot, and that you were a bad husband, most likely.
A. You are quite right on both points.
Z. I thought so.
A. And now, please, may I go on with my work?
Z. Please yourself. I'm not hindering you.
A. Thank you [he resumes his writing].
Z. What books would you recommend me to read to improve my mind?
A. [shouting furiously] Steward.
Z. Oh, you shouldnt trouble the steward now. He's busy getting the soup.
A. I want him to remove my chair to the very furthest extremity of this ship.
Z. I always say it's fresher under the awning at the end. You don't mind if I move too, do you?
A. If you persecute me any more I shall go overboard. Dont you see that I want to be left alone to work, and that your chatter is preventing me from working?
Z. [sympathetically] It is annoying to have somebody talking to you all the time when you dont want to. But it's just as bad when you want to talk, and the other person wont, isnt it?
A. There are three or four hundred persons on this ship. Cannot you find one of them with the same insatiable thirst for conversation as yourself?
Z. Well; but we all have to make ourselves agreeable, havn't we?
A. Not at one another's expense. You are not making yourself agreeable to me at present: you are driving me mad.
Z. My father used to say that men and women are always driving one another mad.
A. That sounds literary. Was your father a man of letters?
Z. Yes: I should think he was. A postman.
A. A what?
Z. A postman. A village postman.
A. Ha ha! Ha ha ha!
Z. What is there funny in that?
A. I don't know. Ha ha! The postman's daughter hath ripe red lips: butter and eggs and a pound of cheese! Ha ha ha!
Z. Well, I'm glad Ive amused you. But I dont think it's very polite of you to laugh at my father.
A. [punctiliously--recovering himself] You are right. I was rude. But a good laugh is worth a hundred pounds to me. I feel a different man. Forgive me. You see, you quoted a remark of your father's--almost an epigram--which suggested that he must have been a man of genius.
Z. Well, so he was. He had a genius for walking.
A. For what?
Z. For walking. When he was a child, he won a prize as The Infant Pedestrian. And would you believe it, my mother was that indoory that she grudged having to go out and do her marketing. After we had a telephone put in she never went out at all.
A. Thats strange. As she was never out and he was never in, the household should have been a quiet one; but that remark of his about men and women driving oneanother mad rather suggests the opposite.
Z. So it was the opposite. She was always complaining of being lonely; and he was always at her to take more exercise. When they were not quarrelling about that, they were quarrelling about me. You see, they had great ambitions for me. She wanted me to be a parlormaid in a great house. He wanted me to be a telephone operator. He said there is no future for the great houses and a great future for telephones.
A. And you? Had you no ambition for yourself?
Z. Oh, I wanted to be something romantic, like an acrobat in a circus.
A. And what actually happened?
Z. I became shop assistant and telephone operator in the village shop.
A. Do village shop assistants and telephone girls--
A. Pardon: operators. Do they earn enough to take cruises round the world in pleasure ships?
Z. Not they. I won the first prize in a newspaper competition. My mother wanted me to save it: she said it would help me to get a thrifty husband. My father told me to blue it all in a lump while I had the chance. "You will be poor all your life," he said; "but now you have the chance of living at the rate of five thousand a year for four months. Dont miss it," he said: "see what it's like. Have your fling" he said; "for they never can take that away from you once youve had it." His idea was a walking tour, spending the nights in the best hotels; but I chose the ship because it's more dressy and more people to look at. Besides, I can get all the walking I want round the deck. At the end of the cruise back I go to the village shop without a penny.
A. Have they found out here that you are not a lady?
Z. The Americans dont know the difference: they think my telephone talk is aristocratic; and the English wont speak to anyone anyhow. And lots of them are just like me.
A. Well, how do you like living at the rate of five thousand a year? Is it worth it?
Z. It is while the novelty lasts. You see, when youre at home you get tired of doing the same thing every day: the same places! the same faces! the same old round. When you get a holiday you go off in a crowded hot excursion train to the seaside and make yourself tired and miserable just because it's a change; and youd do anything for a change. But here it's change all the time until you begin to realize what it is to have a settled home and belong somewhere. I shant be sorry to get home to the shop and the telephone. I get such a dreadful lost dog feeling sometimes. Other times it seems such a foolish waste of money. And I hate wasting money.
A. Thats an extremely attractive point in your character. My wife used to waste my money. Stick to that and you will get married in no time.
Z. Oh, I have had plenty of offers. But you know it's a terrible thing to be a poor man's wife when you have been accustomed to a clean decent job. I have seen so many bright jolly girls turn into dirty old drudges through getting married.
A. Dont be afraid of dirt. Mine is a clean job; but I often wish I had a dirty one to exercise me and keep me in health. Women are so set on clean collars that they make their sons clerks when they would be stronger and earn more money as navvies. I wish I was a navvy instead of writing guide books.
Z. Well, whats to prevent you?
A. I am not trained to manual work. Half an hour of it would make me wish myself dead. And five minutes of my work would produce a strike among the navvies. I am only a writing machine, just as a navvy is a digging machine.
Z. I dont think the world is rightly arranged: do you?
A. We must take the world as we find it. It's we that are not rightly arranged.
Z. Thats what I mean. Well, I suppose I mustnt interrupt your work.
A. You mean that the steward is coming round with the soup at last.
Z. Well, it's half past eleven, isnt it?
The steward appears with the soup and offers it to Z who seizes it eagerly; then to A.
A. No, thank you. No soup.
He buries himself in his work, unmolested.
She buries herself in the soup.