Major Barbara

Written by George Bernard Shaw

Thurs 1st December - Sat 3rd December & Tues 6th December - Sat 10th December 1983

Directed by John Scadding

Are the rich wicked? Are the poor noble? Can religion and capitalism co-exist? 'Major Barbabra' explores these and other moral questions facing a wealthy munitions manufacturer and his salvationist daughter.

AuthorGeorge Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Shaw first earned a literary living as a critic. His main talent, however, was for writing scripts and he wrote more than 60 plays during his lifetime. Nearly all his works deal sternly with prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy to make their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege.

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class, and most of his writings censure that abuse. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion.

PlayMajor Barbara

'Major Barbara' was written and first produced as a play in 1905. The plot centres around an Officer of The Salvation Army; Major Barbara Undershaft when she becomes disillusioned following her section accepting money from an armaments manufacturer and a whisky distiller. The situation is further complicated when we find out that the arms manufacturer in question is also her father. She eventually decides that bringing a message of salvation to people who have plenty will be more fulfilling and genuine than converting the starving in return for bread.

Although Barbara initially regards the Salvation Army's acceptance of Undershaft's money as hypocrisy, Shaw did not intend that it should be thought so by the audience. Shaw wrote a preface for the play's publication, in which he derided the idea that charities should only take money from "morally pure" sources. He pointed out that donations could always be used for good, whatever their provenance, and he quoted a Salvation Army officer, "they would take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hands and into God's".

The Bench Production

Major Barbara poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. The company originally staged this play in 1972 at the original Bench Theatre building in West Street, also under the direction of John Scadding.

On each Saturday of the run, the company also staged two matinee performances of Old King Cole, by Ken Campbell.


Lady Britomart UndershaftPenny Cameron
Stephen UndershaftDeamonn Hewett
Miss Sarah UndershaftJo German
Major Barbara UndershaftLezley Picton
Mr Charles LomaxDavid Brown
Professor Adolphus CousinsChris Hall
MorrisonDerek Cusdin
Mr Andrew UndershaftSam Merry
Rummy MitchensRuth Prior
Snobby PricePeter Holding
Jenny HillHelen Arnold
Peter ShirleyDerek Cusdin
Bill WalkerBill Radmall
Commissioner BainesIngrid Corrigan
BiltonPeter Holding


Director John Scadding
Stage Management Jane Hope
Stella Benton
Veronica Haste
Lighting John Elkins
Paul Francis
Costumes Robbie Cattermole
Poster Jenny Graham
Set design and construction Peter Holding
David Penrose
Bill Bickers
David Graham
Jude Salmon

Director's Notes

The trouble with Shaw is not his verbosity but his enormous energy. His plays are packed with it, and if the actors haven't got it then it is a very long evening and if the actors have got it it can still be relentless. So what must be found is Shaw's variety - the wit and the knockabout, the sense of great mystery, the bonds of relationships, the schoolboy exuberance and mostly we must find those moments of heartbreak when people are stopped by absolute loss and then have to start up again. Shaw is the playwright of starting again. He is the writer who shows worms turning. Shaw rings bells and yells "Turn again Whittington" and indeed many of his plays seems to be written for grownup children as terrible fairy tales. 'Peter Pan', Major Barbara', 'The Importance of Being Earnest' are three terrible fairy tales. I hope you enjoy the one this evening.

John Scadding

Production Photographs