Bernard Shaw in Brazil

The Reception of Theatrical Productions, 1927–2013

by Rosalie Rahal Haddad (Author)
Monographs XXXI, 276 Pages


In 1927, the first production of Pygmalion was staged in Brazil. At the time, over 65 per cent of the adult Brazilian population was illiterate, which makes it all the more surprising that directors and producers dared to stage such a controversial playwright – a writer who had often been rejected by the more sophisticated theatregoer in England.
This book analyses the reception of almost a century of Brazilian productions of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, Arms and the Man, Candida and Mrs Warren’s Profession, setting that analysis in the context of the political, economic and cultural climate at the time of each production. What emerges is a faithful portrait of a country where theatre and theatre criticism are precariously established, and the theatregoer with no knowledge of English cannot be certain that the translation or adaptation they are watching bears anything more than a passing resemblance to the original. Nonetheless, Brazil has also witnessed a number of fine productions, presented by highly skilled actors and directors and reviewed by well-informed and articulate critics.
As well as supplying fascinating detail on the wide range of Shaw productions staged in Brazil over the last ninety years, this volume also generates valuable insights into the complexities of twentieth-century Brazilian society.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Prologue
  • Chapter One : Pygmalion
  • Chapter Two : My Fair Lady
  • Chapter Three : Arms and the Man
  • Chapter Four : Candida
  • Chapter Five : Mrs Warren’s Profession
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography
  • Tables
  • Index

← x | xi →Acknowledgements

This study has been in my mind ever since I finished my Doctorate at the University of São Paulo [USP]. From the point that I mentally conceived it, I also realized that Peter James Harris, Professor of English Literature in the Modern Languages Department at the State University of São Paulo [UNESP], was the ideal person to supervise the study. I am deeply grateful to him, not only for accepting me in the postdoctoral programme at UNESP, but also for his constructive advice and his gesture of faith in suggesting that I submit the first chapter to be evaluated by Peter Lang. I am indebted to him for hours of discussion and for the final editing of the text.

I am grateful to Samuel Santos de Brito for the technical support he provided throughout my work and for assisting me with data collection during the research. On that note, I would like to thank the following libraries in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro: Biblioteca Lasar Segall [Lasar Segall Library], Biblioteca Mário de Andrade [Mário de Andrade Library], Editora Abril [Abril Publishing House], Museu do Ipiranga [Ipiranga Museum], Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo [Public Archive of the State of São Paulo], Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil [National Library of Brazil] and the CEDOC DA FUNARTE, RJ [The Documentation Centre of the National Arts Foundation, Rio de Janeiro].

I am also grateful to Domingos Nunez for his research on the plays by Bernard Shaw that were produced in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Finally, this work was made possible by the support of my husband, Claudio, and my two daughters, Tania and Paula. Claudio helped me considerably in discovering interesting and important facts related to my research. Tania and Paula have given me invaluable affectionate support throughout my academic life. To both of them and to my husband I dedicate this study. My deep gratitude also goes to my late parents for their care and for believing in me by investing in my education.← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →Preface

It has been my privilege to accompany Rosalie Rahal Haddad’s academic career since we first met as fellow students at the University of São Paulo (USP) in 1992. Over the ensuing decades she has built and consolidated a reputation as South America’s leading specialist on the works of Bernard Shaw. Her publications in Portuguese constitute a valuable source of information for Brazilian scholars, and the present volume will certainly serve to enhance her position in Shaw studies in the English-speaking world as well. Her first book, Bernard Shaw e a renovação do teatro ingles [Bernard Shaw and the renewal of the English theatre] (São Paulo: Olavobrás/ABEI, 1997) remains unsurpassed in Brazil as a guide to the particular importance of Shaw’s dramaturgy in the history of the English theatre. In her subsequent study she wound the clock back to examine the significance of Shaw’s rarely studied novels as harbingers of his later work in the theatre. In Bernard Shaw’s Novels: His Drama of Ideas in Embryo (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007), Shaw scholars have what I believe to be the only full-length study of his novels conducted so far. Two years later it was to Shaw’s work as a critic that Rosalie turned her attention. Shaw, O Crítico [Shaw, the Critic] (São Paulo, Humanitas, 2009) gathers together thirteen of Shaw’s most significant pieces of critical writing, translated into Portuguese by Domingos Nunes, prefaced by a rich introduction to Shaw’s multi-faceted career. The present volume now extends the focus to examine the history and critical reception of Shaw’s presence on the Brazilian stage.

Having recently published my own study of the reception of Irish plays in London, From Stage to Page: Critical Reception of Irish Plays in the London Theatre, 1925–1996 (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011), it was particularly gratifying to be approached by Rosalie with a view to supervising her postdoctorate at the State University of São Paulo (UNESP). Her long-cherished project of carrying out a survey and analysis of the reception of productions of Shaw’s ← xiii | xiv →plays in Brazil was one about which I was immediately enthusiastic. The result of that work, which you now hold in your hands, is without doubt the greatest single contribution to Shaw studies in Brazil and will be of great value to all scholars seeking to comprehend the way that the dramatist is perceived in non-English-speaking countries. For those unfamiliar with the chaotic conditions of archives in Brazil, it is worth stressing that the researcher in this country will find no equivalent of the seamless efficiency of British Library Newspapers at Colindale, far less the luxury of the collected reviews in Theatre Record. In Brazil, anyone interested in theatre reception is faced with a task more akin to the physical labour of the archaeologist, where a dust mask and inexhaustible patience are indispensable prerequisites.

The results of that research may be seen at a glance in the Table at the end of the volume, which sets out the details of every single Shaw production in the theatres of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the cultural centres of Brazil. The book itself analyses the reception of Brazilian productions of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, Arms and the Man, Candida and Mrs Warren’s Profession, setting that analysis in the context of pertinent information about the political, economic and cultural climate obtaining at the time of each production. What emerges is a frank portrait of a country where theatre and theatre criticism are but precariously established, where commercial considerations frequently over-ride aesthetic concerns, and the theatregoer with no knowledge of English can have no guarantee that the translated text or adaptation he or she is watching bears any more than a passing resemblance to the original upon which it is based. Nonetheless, as Rosalie demonstrates, Brazil has also enjoyed the opportunity to witness fine productions produced by highly skilled actors and directors and reviewed by well-informed and highly articulate critics. The reader of the present volume will not only gain an insight into the wide spectrum of Shaw productions staged in Brazil, but will also be able to understand something of the remarkable complexity of the country itself.

Peter James Harris

Professor of English Literature

State University of São Paulo,

São José do Rio Preto, Brazil

← xiv | xv →Prologue

The present study examines the critical reception of Brazilian productions of four plays and a musical by George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950):

a)Pygmalion, first staged in London in 1914 and in Brazil in 1927 by the Cia. Italiana de Comédia Tatiana Pawlova [The Tatiana Pawlova Italian Comedy Company] and in 1928 by the Cia. Brasileira de Sainetes de Abigail-Roulien (The Abigail-Roulien Brazilian Sainete Company), the first play by Shaw to be staged in Brazil;

b)My Fair Lady, the musical adaptation of Pygmalion, first staged in New York (Broadway) in 1956 and in Brazil in 1962; although not of Shaw’s authorship it was the first foreign musical to be staged in Brazil, and was responsible for introducing Shaw’s name to the wider Brazilian public;

c)Arms and the Man, first staged in London in 1894 and in Brazil 1929; given the strongly negative reaction of the nineteenth-century English audience this production represents a useful opportunity to gauge the contrast with the play’s Brazilian reception;

d)Candida, published in 1895 but first staged in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1897, was first produced in London in 1900 (privately) and (publicly) in 1904, and was first staged in Brazil in 1946; this is the only play in the group to have been staged in Brazil in the twenty-first century; not only did that production enjoy considerable success in São Paulo but it was also extensively toured, playing at many different regional venues from 2008 to 2013, thus introducing Shaw to a large number of Brazilian theatregoers, who might otherwise have had very little contact with his work;

e)Mrs Warren’s Profession, first staged (privately) in London in 1902 and in Brazil in 1947; banned in England until 1925, a study of the play’s reception in Brazil reveals whether Brazilian audiences can be considered more broad-minded than their English counterparts; the ← xv | xvi →1960 production, directed by the Italian immigrant Gianni Ratto and produced by the Teatro dos Sete [Theatre of the Seven], had the most outstanding reception of any Shavian play in Brazil.

It is important to stress that the above are by no manner of means the only productions of Shaw’s plays to have been staged in Brazil. At the end of the present volume, Table 1 sets out every single production of plays by Bernard Shaw staged in theatres in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in the period from 1927 to 2013.

Although it will not be the focus of analysis in the present study, it may be helpful to give a brief account of my own experience in staging Shaw in Brazil. In 2008 I agreed to produce a Shaw play in São Paulo, which would be translated into Portuguese and directed for the Cia Ludens by Domingos Nunez. Due to financial contingencies, including the cost of renting a venue, set, costumes and above all, payment of actors, we realized that it would have to be a short play with a small cast. The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles [O Idiota no País dos Absurdos] seemed to fulfil the requirements of a production which would not require a large investment. Theatre activities in Brazil are very discouraging for producers, unless they are subsidized by public or private funding. In this case, I was the sole producer, and the amount spent on the production was considerable, short though the play was.

The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles, subtitled A Vision of Judgement, was defined by Shaw as one of his Plays Extravagant.1 It was written when the playwright was 79 years old and set on a fictional island in the Indian Ocean. Shaw and his wife travelled extensively during their married life, above all in the period from 1931 to 1936. According to Dan H. Laurence, ‘en route to New Zealand in 1934 he [Shaw] confided to Leonora Ervine that he had begun to “shoot into the air more and more extravagantly without any premeditation whatever – advienne que pourra”’ in his playwriting.2

← xvi | xvii →The play opened in New York on 18 February 1935, but ran for only forty performances. The critics thought that Shaw’s ‘long career as a dramatist had at last come to an end’.3 Undaunted by the critics, in the Preface to the play, published in 1936, Shaw wrote that, ‘In a living society every day is a day of judgment; and its recognition as such is not the end of all things but the beginning of a real civilization’.4

Staging The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isles in Brazil was a challenging experience, not only because it was my debut as a Shaw producer, but also because of the play’s pertinence to the current Brazilian situation. The ‘absurd’ aspects of the play, such as corruption among politicians, bankers and policemen, kidnapping of children and adults, drug dealers involved with the local political administration and negligence in all the basic public services, reflected the theatregoer’s daily experience, both in the media and, often enough, in his or her own life. The empathy between the audience and Shaw was certainly strengthened by the playwright’s proposal that one should get rid of those who are not ‘worth their salt’. When the play was performed in New York, it is unlikely that the American theatregoer could have enjoyed the same rapport with the play as his or her Brazilian counterpart did seventy years later. As far as I could see whenever I was present at the theatre, the audience enjoyed the play.

The production ran from 6 June to 27 July 2008. Although the production was not extensively reviewed, critics received it positively, connecting Shaw’s play to later work by Beckett, Ionesco and Arrabal. One such reviewer was Maria Lúcia Candeias, whose review, published on 11 July 2008 in O Diário do Comércio Online, was entitled ‘The Absurd is Difficult in Brazil’:


XXXI, 276
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XXXI, 276 pp., 6 tables

Biographical notes

Rosalie Rahal Haddad (Author)

Rosalie Rahal Haddad is Vice-President of the ABEI (Brazilian Association of Irish Studies) and an associate researcher for the William Butler Yeats Chair of Irish Studies at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She holds a doctoral degree from the University of São Paulo and a post-doctoral degree from the State University of São Paulo. She has published on Bernard Shaw and other Irish playwrights, both in Brazil and internationally, and has also produced Bernard Shaw and Brian Friel plays in São Paulo.


Title: Bernard Shaw in Brazil