You Never Can Tell

Relaxing amidst the sunshine of a seaside holiday, the enlightened Mrs Landfrey Clandon and her three unconventional children celebrate their return to England after eighteen years of living abroad. However, a chance encounter with their traditionalist father quickly entangles them in a series of wonderfully comic events, all played out over the course of a luncheon and fancy dress party. Bernard Shaw's comic tour-de-force You Never Can Tell is set beside the seaside where a holiday atmosphere prevails. He uses his lightest touch to explore the battle of the sexes, the absurdities of marriage and the generation gap.

Denis King and Benny Green adapted this comedy into the musical Valentine's Day.

The first name of the Waiter was originally given as 'Walter', but recent productions have normally changed it to 'William'. Likewise, when cast, the first name of the young Waiter was originally given as 'Jo', but is now usually 'Joe'.

1897: Original West End London Production CANCELLED with Cyril Maude and Fanny Coleman

1899: Original West End London Production with James A Welch and Elsie Chester

1900: 1st West End London Revival with James A Welch and Elsie Chester

1905: 2nd West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Mrs Theodore Wright

1906: 3rd West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Henrietta Watson

1907: 4th West End London with Louis Calvert and Henrietta Watson

1907: 5th West End London Revival with J D Beveridge and Agnes Thomas

1910: West End London Charity Performance with C W A Trollope and St John Oliver

1920: 6th West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Lady Tree

1927: 7th West End London Revival with Frank Darch and Shirley Bax

1938: 8th West End London Revival with Stanley Lathbury and Gillian Scaife

1947: 9th West End London Revival with Harcourt Williams and Jane Henderson

1966: 10th West End London Revival with Ralph Richardson and Judy Campbell/Avice Landon

1979: London Revival with Paul Rogers and Sian Phillips

1987: 11th West End London Revival with Michael Hordern and Irene Worth

2005: 12th West End London Revival with Edward Fox and Diana Quick

George Bernard Shaw's other London theatre plays include Mrs Warren's Profession, Saint Joan, and Pygmalion (adapted into the musical My Fair Lady).


1897: Original West End London Production CANCELLED with Cyril Maude and Fanny Coleman

Spring 1897 at the Haymarket Theatre - cancelled

The cast featured Cyril Maude as 'William, the Waiter', Allan Aynesworth as 'Mr Valentine', Henry Kemble as 'Walter Bohun QC', Fanny Coleman as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Winifred Emery as 'Gloria Clandon', Eva Moore as 'Dolly Clandon', J L Mackay as 'Philip Clandon', Brandon Thomas as 'Fergus Crampton', and J H Barnes as 'Finch McComas'.

In 1896, as the new lessees of the Haymarket Theatre, Frederick Harrison, and actor-manager Cyril Maude, secured the performing rights from Bernard for You Never Can Tell. The production went into rehearsals in late March 1897, but they did not go smoothly, partly because of clash between the then current fashion of using actors to play 'stock-characters' to drive the plot, rather than the more naturalistic acting style which Bernard Shaw had written the play in, and demanded it be played in when he attended rehearsals. By the end of May the leading lady, Fanny Coleman, had withdrawn from the production, and shortly afterwards it was announced that the production had been cancelled.


1899: Original West End London Production with James A Welch and Elsie Chester

Sunday 26 November 1899 at the Royalty Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured James A Welch as 'William, the Waiter', Yorke Stephens as 'Mr Valentine', Charles Charrington as 'Walter Bohun QC', Elsie Chester as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Margaret Halstan as 'Gloria Clandon', Winifred Fraser as 'Dolly Clandon', Roland Bottomley as 'Philip Clandon', Hermann Vezin as 'Fergus Crampton', Sydney Warden as 'Finch McComas', Mabel Hardinge as 'Maid', Edward Knoblock as 'Joe, the Young Waiter', and Leopold Profeit as 'Cook'.

Directed by James Welch.

Presented for one performance only by the Stage Society.

The 650-seater Royalty Theatre was located at 72-74 Dean Street, Soho, and is now an office block named 'Royalty House'.


1900: 1st West End London Revival with James A Welch and Elsie Chester

Opened 2 May 1900 (no previews), Closed 9 May 1900 (matinees only) at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre)

The cast featured James A Welch as 'William, the Waiter', Yorke Stephens as 'Mr Valentine', Charles Charrington as 'Walter Bohun QC', Elsie Chester as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Mabel Terry Lewis as 'Gloria Clandon', Audrey Ford as 'Dolly Clandon', W Graham Browne as 'Philip Clandon', Hermann Vezin as 'Fergus Crampton', George Raiemond as 'Finch McComas', Alice Powell as 'Maid', and Leopold Profeit as 'Joe, the Young Waiter'.

Directed by James A Welch.

A short run of six afternoon matinee performances.


1905: 2nd West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Mrs Theodore Wright

Opened 2 May 1905 (no previews), Closed 19 May 1905 (matinees only) at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)
Returned 12 June 1905, Closed 1 July 2005 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)

The cast featured Louis Calvert as 'William, the Waiter', Harley Granville-Barker as 'Mr Valentine', Nigel Playfair as 'Walter Bohun QC', Mrs Theodore Wright as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Tita Brand as 'Gloria Clandon', Sydney Fairbrother as 'Dolly Clandon', Norman Page as 'Philip Clandon', J D Beveridge as 'Fergus Crampton', J H Barnes as 'Finch McComas', and Hazel Thompson as 'Maid'.

Directed by Harley Granville-Barker.

Initially presented for a series of nine afternoon matinees, the production proved popular and was brought back for a three-week run (Monday to Saturday evenings, and Wednesday afternoon matinees).

Presented at the Court Theatre by John Eugene Vedrenne and Harley Granville-Barker.


1906: 3rd West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Henrietta Watson

Opened 9 July 1906 (no previews), Closed 15 September 1906 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)

The cast featured Louis Calvert as 'William, the Waiter', Henry Ainley as 'Mr Valentine', James S Hearn as 'Walter Bohun QC', Henrietta Watson as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Lillah McCarthy as 'Gloria Clandon', Dorothy Minto as 'Dolly Clandon', Norman Page as 'Philip Clandon', Edmund Gurney as 'Fergus Crampton', J H Barnes as 'Finch McComas', and Hazel Thompson as 'Maid'.

Directed by Harley Granville-Barker.

Presented at the Court Theatre by John Eugene Vedrenne and Harley Granville-Barker.


1907: 4th West End London with Louis Calvert and Henrietta Watson

Opened 11 February 1907, Closed 6 April 1907 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)

The cast featured Louis Calvert as 'William, the Waiter', Harley Granville-Barker as 'Mr Valentine', James S Hearn as 'Walter Bohun QC', Henrietta Watson as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Grace Lane as 'Gloria Clandon', Dorothy Minto as 'Dolly Clandon', Norman Page as 'Philip Clandon', Edmund Gurney as 'Fergus Crampton', H Athol Forde as 'Finch McComas', and Penelope Wheeler as 'Maid'.

Directed by Harley Granville-Barker.

Presented at the Court Theatre by John Eugene Vedrenne and Harley Granville-Barker.


1907: 5th West End London Revival with J D Beveridge and Agnes Thomas

Opened 16 September 1907 (no previews), Closed 12 October 1907 at the Savoy Theatre

The cast featured J D Beveridge as 'William, the Waiter', Harcourt Williams as 'Mr Valentine', James Hearn as 'Walter Bohun QC', Agnes Thomas as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Ellen O'Malley as 'Gloria Clandon', Dorothy Minto as 'Dolly Clandon', Norman Page as 'Philip Clandon', A E George as 'Fergus Crampton', Nigel Playfair as 'Finch McComas', and Katherine Stuart as 'Maid'.

Directed by Harley Granville-Barker.

Presented at the Court Theatre by John Eugene Vedrenne and Harley Granville-Barker.


1910: West End London Charity Performance with C W A Trollope and St John Oliver

Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 April 1910 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)

The cast featured C W A Trollope as 'William, the Waiter', H A'C Bergne as 'Mr Valentine', Cuthbert Maunder as 'Walter Bohun QC', St John Oliver as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', J E McCulloch as 'Gloria Clandon', Dolores Jackson as 'Dolly Clandon', Philip Streatfield as 'Philip Clandon, J D Tulloh as 'Fergus Crampton', Henry Hardinge as 'Finch McComas', Mrs Buke as 'Maid', and Guy Williams as 'Joe, the Young Waiter'.

Directed by C W A Trollope.

Two evening charity performances held in aid of the St Pancras and Northern Dispensary and the St Pancras Almshouses and performed by an amateur cast.


1920: 6th West End London Revival with Louis Calvert and Lady Tree

Opened 22 November 1920 (no previews), Closed 10 December 1920 (matinees only) at the Garrick Theatre

The cast featured Louis Calvert as 'William, the Waiter', Francis Lister as 'Mr Valentine', Frederick Victor as 'Walter Bohun QC', Lady Tree as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Viola Tree as 'Gloria Clandon', Nadine March as 'Dolly Clandon', Denys Blakelock as 'Philip Clandon', Leonard Shepherd as 'Fergus Crampton', Scott Alexander as 'Finch McComas', and Miss Corday as 'Maid'.

Directed by Louis Calvert.

Three-week season of afternoon matinees on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.


1927: 7th West End London Revival with Frank Darch and Shirley Bax

Opened 26 December 1927 (no previews), Closed 14 January 1928 at the Little Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured Frank Darch as 'William, the Waiter', S Esme Percy as 'Mr Valentine', Francis L Sullivan as 'Walter Bohun QC', Shirley Bax as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Margaret Macdona as 'Gloria Clandon', Dora Macdona as 'Dolly Clandon', George E Bancroft as 'Philip Clandon', George de Lara as 'Fergus Crampton', Howieson Culff as 'Finch McComas', and Nan Doe as 'Maid'.

Directed by S Esme Percy.

Presented by the Macdona Players.

The 371-seater Little Theatre at Adelphi was located in a converted banking hall on the north side of John Street, now John Adam Street. An office block named 'Adelphi' now covers the area that included the theatre.


1938: 8th West End London Revival with Stanley Lathbury and Gillian Scaife

Opened 3 May 1938 (no previews), Closed 11 June 1938 at the Westminster Theatre

The cast featured Stanley Lathbury as 'William, The Waiter', John Wyse as 'Mr Valentine', Mark Dignam as 'Walter Bohun QC', Gillian Scaife as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Lydia Sherwood as 'Gloria Clandon', Alexis France as 'Dolly Clandon', Frederick Peisley as 'Philip Clandon', Graveley Edwards as 'Fergus Crampton', J Leslie Frith as 'Finch McComas', Bridget Phelps as 'Maid', and Bruce Adams as 'Joe, the Young Waiter'.

Directed by Michael MacOwam.

The 580-seater Westminster Theatre in Palace Street was demolished and rebuilt in 2012 as the 312-seater Other Palace Theatre.


1947: 9th West End London Revival with Harcourt Williams and Jane Henderson

Opened 3 October 1947 (no previews), Closed 24 April 1948 at the Wyndham's Theatre
Transferred 26 April 1948, Closed 29 May 1948 at the Criterion Theatre
Transferred 31 May 1948, Closed 3 July 1948 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast featured Harcourt Williams as 'William, the Waiter', James Donald as 'Mr Valentine', D A Clarke-Smith as 'Walter Bohun QC', Jane Henderson as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Rosamund John as 'Gloria Clandon', Brenda Bruce as 'Dolly Clandon', David Peel as 'Philip Clandon', Francis Lister as 'Fergus Crampton', Ernest Thesiger as 'Finch McComas', and Muriel Russell as 'Maid'.

Directed by Peter Ashmore, with designs by Anthony Holland.

When this production transferred to the Criterion Theatre David Markman took over as 'Mr Valentine', Brenda Bruce took over as 'Dolly Clandon', and Milton Rosmer took over as as 'Fergus Crampton'.


1966: 10th West End London Revival with Ralph Richardson and Judy Campbell/Avice Landon

Opened 12 January 1966 (no previews), Closed 17 September 1966 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

The cast featured Ralph Richardson as 'William, the Waiter', Keith Baxter as 'Mr Valentine', Moray Watson as 'Walter Bohun QC', Judy Campbell as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon' (up to Saturday 18 June 1966), Avice Landon as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon' (from Monday 20 June 1966), Angela Thorne as 'Gloria Clandon', Celia Bannerman as 'Dolly Clandon', James Hunter as 'Philip Clandon', Harry Andrews as 'Fergus Crampton' (up to Saturday 26 February 1966), Jack Gwillim as 'Fergus Crampton' (from Mon 28 February 1966), Cyril Luckman as 'Finch McComas', Daphne Newton as 'Maid', Malcolm Reid as 'Joe, the Young Waiter', and Ian Ainsley as 'Cook'.

Directed by Glen Byam Shaw, with designs by Motley, lighting by Joe Davis, and music by Leslie Bridgewater.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast, was staged at the Brighton Theatre Royal from Thursday 23 December 1965 to Saturday 8 January 1966.

It was originally planned to stage this revival, with Ralph Richardson starring at 'William, the Waiter', at the Edinburgh Lyceum Theatre from Monday 6 to Saturday 11 September 1965 as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, followed by a London West End transfer. Unfortunately Ralph Richardson's film commitments caused the production to be cancelled, and remounted in December at Brighton, prior to transferring to London's West End.


1979: London Revival with Paul Rogers and Sian Phillips

Previewed 18 October 1979, Opened 19 October 1979, Closed 17 November 1979 at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

The cast featured Paul Rogers as 'William, the Waiter', Peter Egan as 'Mr Valentine', John Bryans as 'Walter Bohun QC', Sian Phillips as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Cheryl Campbell as 'Gloria Clandon', Lynsey Baxter as 'Dolly Clandon', David Dixon as 'Philip Clandon', David Waller as 'Fergus Crampton', Frank Middlemann as 'Finch McComas', Gilly Brown as 'Maid', and Andrew Rooney as 'Joe, the Young Waiter'.

Directed by David Giles, with sets by Kenneth Mellor, costumes by Mark Negin, and lighting by Mick Hughes.

This was the opening production of the rebuilt and restored Lyric Theatre. The performance on Thursday 18 October 1979 was a Royal Gala attended by Her Majesty, The Queen, along with the Duke of Edinburgh.


1987: 11th West End London Revival with Michael Hordern and Irene Worth

Previewed 15 December 1987, Opened 18 December 1987, Closed 21 May 1988 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

The cast featured Michael Hordern as 'William, the Waiter', Terence Wilton as 'Mr Valentine', Derek Waring as 'Walter Bohun QC', Irene Worth as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Jenny Quayle as 'Gloria Clandon', Abigail Cruttenden as 'Dolly Clandon', Harry Burton as 'Philip Clandon', Michael Denison as 'Fergus Crampton', Frank Middlemass as 'Finch McComas', Annabel Lambe as 'Maid', Tim Marriott as 'Joe, the Young Waiter', and Stuart Sherwin as 'Cook'.

Directed by Toby Robertson, with designs by Saul Radomsky, lighting by Mick Hughes, and sound by Guy Colyer.

Prior to London's West End this production embarked on an 11-week tour: Mold Theatr Clwyd from Monday 28 September to Saturday 24 October 1987; Guildford Yvonne Arnaud from Monday 26 October to Saturday 7 November 1987; Croydon Ashcroft from Monday 9 November to Saturday 21 November 1987; Bath Theatre Royal from Monday 23 November to Saturday 28 November 1987; and Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday 30 November to Saturday 12 December 1987 - with the same cast, with the exception of Bath and Brighton when the role of 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon' was played by Rose Alba, due to Irene Worth having filming commitments.


2005: 12th West End London Revival with Edward Fox and Diana Quick

Previewed 25 October 2005, Opened 7 November 2005, Closed 11 March 2006 at the Garrick Theatre

A major revival of George Bernard Shaw's comedy You Never Can Tell in London starring Edward Fox

The cast featured Edward Fox as 'William, the Waiter', Ryan Kiggell as 'Mr Valentine', Michael Mears as 'Walter Bohun QC', Diana Quick as 'Mrs Lanfrey Clandon', Nancy Carroll as 'Gloria Clandon', Sinead Matthews as 'Dolly Clandon', Matthew Dunphy as 'Philip Clandon', Ken Bones as 'Fergus Crampton', William Chubb as 'Finch McComas', and Madeleine Hutchings as 'Maid'.

Directed by Peter Hall, with choreography by Wayne McGregor, sets by Kevin Rigdon, costumes by Trish Rigdon, lighting by Peter Mumford, and sound by Gregory Clarke.

Diana Quick's London theatre credits include playing the roles of 'Jean Rhys' in Polly Teale's production After Mrs Rochester at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2003; 'Mrs Helene Alving' in Stephen Unwin's revival of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts at the Greenwich Theatre in 2002; 'Evelyn' in Abigail Morris' production of Diane Samuels' Kindertransport at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1996; 'Cressida' in Elijah Moshinsky's revival of William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida at the Young Vic Theatre in 1976; and 'Rose Jones' in William Gaskill's production of Edward Bond's The Sea at the Royal Court Theatre in 1973.

This production was originally seen, with the same cast, at the Bath Theatre Royal - previewed from 10 August 2005, opened on 25 August 2005, and closed 3 September 2005 - followed by a six-week tour: Canterbury Marlowe Theatre from Tuesday 13 September to Saturday 17 September 2005; Richmond Theatre from Monday 19 September to Saturday 24 September 2005; Glasgow Theatre Royal from Monday 26 September to Saturday 1 October 2005; Bromley Churchill Theatre from Monday 3 October to Saturday 8 October 2005; Brighton Theatre Royal from Monday 10 October to Saturday 15 October 2005; and Edinburgh King's Theatre from Tuesday 18 October to Saturday 22 October 2005.

"Bernard Shaw languishes unfairly out of theatrical favour these days. Yet intelligent audiences of all ages and ideologies will relish this elegant Peter Hall production, which is that rare thing, a Shavian comedy with a soul and heart attached. You Never Can Tell takes itself lightly and amusingly. It never wears Shaw's socialist convictions on its sleeve, but shows sympathy for traditionalists and the New Woman alike. Shaw concocted no more humane a comedy... Just about every expense has been spared on stage designs by Kevin Ridgeon, which are by turns cumbersome and unhelpfully basic. Mood, atmosphere and comedy are, though, exuberantly generated by a superb cast in which there is but one small, weak link." The London Evening Standard

"Shaw's play has dated terribly, but that's its interest. Enlivened by honking vowel-sounds and pompous phrases, a sort of Shaw in Original Pronunciation, it shows us an England that's now as sunk as the Titanic... Shaw's humour can be laborious. He was didactic even when poking fun at his own Fabian and feminist principles. The star turn is Edward Fox as Walter, the wise waiter of the Marine Hotel. He listens to the chattering class with the mysterious smile of a Mona Lisa. He materialises as unruffled as a yogi, bearing claret or coffee just as a situation is about to blow. He has a wonderful speaking voice, stentorian, but coming from afar, as though delivered by a small person living very far down in his belly." The Sunday Telegraph

"One of George Bernard Shaw's 'plays pleasant', which means he deals with serious issues lightly and amusingly. In this case it is the nature of love in marriage and between parents and children... Edward Fox effortlessly and delightfully steals the show as a waiter with the low-key grandeur, grace and unflappability of the true aristocrat. Almost invisibly, as is the way with the most accomplished, most considerate and utterly indispensable servants, he is the one who masterminds the reconciliation between the children and their father, as well as the sparring lovers: lovely Nancy Carroll, a typically clever Shavian heroine, and excellent Ryan Kiggell as the determined dentist. Very pleasant indeed." The Mail on Sunday

You Never Can Tell in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 25 October 2005, opened on 7 November 2005, closed on 11 March 2006.