MAN AND SUPERMAN
Director: Simon Goodwin
Writer: Bernard Shaw
Runtime: 230 mins (including 20 mins interval)
Australian release date: 27 June 2015
Previewed at: Chauvel Cinemas, Paddington, Sydney, on 21 June 2015.
Not to be missed is the next National Theatre Live production, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw’s Man And Superman, which was filmed in the Lyttelton Theatre on London’s South Bank. Carrying on the British tradition of fine theatre, Australian audiences will once again be transported to the front row to bear witness to a production which is simply superb.
Simon Godwin (who previously directed The Beaux' Stratagem and Strange Interlude for the National Theatre) brings this interpretation up-to-date by setting it in a more modern period. The play was originally written in 1903 and consists of four acts, although the third one, which involves a fantasy in Hell and contains some of the wittiest lines, is not always performed. In this production we get to view the complete drama and what a tale it is, encompassing politics, philosophy, social hypocrisy and Heaven and Hell, all the while searching for the meaning of what it is ‘to love,’ for Shaw maintains that, “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.”
The celebrated actor Ralph Fiennes plays John ‘Jack’ Tanner, a radical thinker who happens to be a rich bachelor. Both Tanner and an older, more conservative man, Roebuck Ramsden (Nicholas le Prevost), who won’t even entertain the idea of reading Jack’s Revolutionist’s Handbook and Pocket Companion, have been named as joint guardians of an alluring feminist heiress Ann Whitefield (Indira Varma). She’s being pursued by the love-struck Octavius Robinson (Ferdinand Kingsley) but Ann is out to marry and tame the revolutionary Jack, despite his ignorance of her plan. When his eloquent chauffeur, Straker (Elliot Barnes-Worrell), sets him to rights, Jack attempts to escape Ann’s clutches by heading off on a road trip to Spain, post-haste. The speed-loving Straker is only too happy to oblige!
En-route they are captured by brigands and this is the point in the play where Shaw, who honed his craft by delivering political speeches on street corners, brings many of his ideas to the fore, posing fundamental questions about how we live. Jack falls asleep and in his dream he channels the character of Don Juan and ends up in a dialogue with the leader of the brigands Mendoza (Tim McMullan), who has become the Devil incarnate, and they have a robust discussion on the merits of Hell versus Heaven. It’s a particularly interesting debate for it is suggested, according to Shaw that, “…the Devil is not so black as he is painted.”
In this fabulous NT Live production the words of one of the world’s greatest thinkers are brought to light in a witty, fiery and, at times, hilarious manner. It’s worth purchasing a ticket to see theatre at its best and to experience fine actors like Fiennes and Varma at full throttle, delivering a mass of dialogue without faltering and doing it in a seemingly effortless way. Man And Superman is a treat!