Shaw Festival’s O’Flaherty V.C. goes short and silly on a long and serious war

This year’s lunchtime show at the Shaw Festival serves up just the right mixture of serious and silly.

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Tara Rosling and Ben Sanders in the deceptively silly O’Flaherty V.C. by George Bernard Shaw. (EMILY COOPER)

By George Bernard Shaw, directed by Kimberley Rampersad. Until October 6 at the Royal George Theatre, 85 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Shawfest.com and 1-800-511-7429.

This year’s lunchtime show at the Shaw Festival serves up just the right mixture of serious and silly. Kimberley Rampersad’s charming production revives the tradition of filling the 11:30 a.m. slot with a short play by the festival’s namesake playwright.

As the resident Shaw scholar Leonard Conolly reveals in a rollicking program note, O’Flaherty V.C. has quite the backstory. It’s based on the real-life story of a young Irish soldier who in 1915 earned the Victoria Cross — the highest honour in the British military — for showing “conspicuous bravery” in World War I, and subsequently became a poster boy for Irish recruitment to fight for King and country. But how would this go down in his native Ireland, boiling with anticolonial sentiment that was soon to erupt in the 1916 Easter Rising?

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