Arms and the Man

Definition

Theater

  • A play by George Bernard Shaw, first performed in1894 in the Avenue Theatre, London. The financial backing for theproduction came from Annie Horniman, who founded the AbbeyTheatre in Dublin. The only hiccup in the first night's performancewas the moment when an actor mistakenly referred to the British armyinstead of the Bulgarian. Despite this, the play was rapturously received.When Shaw took his bow as author, he was greeted with cheers and asolitary boo. Shaw remarked:
    I quite agree with you, my friend, but what can we two doagainst a whole houseful of the opposite opinion?
    Shaw once described the play as "one joke after another,it's a firecracker". The plot makes light of both love and war.It follows a Swiss mercenary soldier, Bluntschli, as he takes refugein the bedroom of the young Raina Petkoff. She is intrigued by hisprosaic view of war (he fills his cartridge case with chocolates)as contrasted with the romantic approach of her fiancé Sergius.Raina helps Bluntschli escape. When he returns with her father's coat,she chooses him over Sergius. The story was later adapted for themusical The Chocolate Soldier (by Oscar Straus).

    In 1944 Olivier and Richardson opened their first Old Vicseason with Arms and the Man. Richardson was highly praisedas Bluntschli but Olivier got such bad reviews as the conventionalSergius (a part he admitted to hating) that he almost quit acting.

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