MAN AND SUPERMAN
by George Bernard Shaw.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 17 May 2015.
1.30pm 21, 24 Mar, 1, 7, 25 Apr, 2, 6, 16 May.
2pm 22 Mar, 26 Apr, 3, 17 May.
7pm 19-24, 30, 31 Mar, 1, 7, 24-27 Apr, 1-6, 12-17 May.
Audio-described 25 Apr 1.30pm (+ Touch Tour 12pm), 27 Apr.
Captioned 31 Mar, 5 May.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.
NT Live 14 Apr 7pm
Runs: 3hr 30min One interval.
Sold-out: but NT Live streaming 14 April at 7pm.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 11 March.
"How he does talk," says Nicholas Le Prevost, resplendent in cream satin as a cross between Don Giovanni’s Commandant and Roebuck Ramsden, a guardian of George Bernard Shaw’s female protagonist, Ann Whitefield.
Indeed, how he (GBS/Jack Tanner, the object of the Commandant’s comment) does. Or, as originally penned by Shaw, “Your flow of words is simply amazing. You are extremely fond of hearing yourself talk.”
Even modernised and tweaked, at three and a half hours, Man and Superman is still GBS at his most loquacious, a comedy of manners within which he placed a third act, ‘Don Juan in Hell’, a mischievous debate between the pros and cons of Heaven and Hell. Though Hell evidently offers far more fun, it is to Heaven that Don Juan/Tanner returns – Heaven being a synonym for a sense of direction and purpose in life, Hell a lack of it.
Sometimes the play appears sans this third act philosophical `intermission’ with its nod to Nietzsche’s Übermensch. The fact that director Simon Godwin has chosen to include it places an extra burden on the actor playing Tanner but in this case, we are blessed with Ralph Fiennes in galvanic form (ably abetted by Tim McMullan in the double act of the Devil and Mendoza, a bandit leader).
Fiennes inhabits Tanner, the anarchist and reluctant target of Ann’s marital designs with splendid energy and relish. Tanner is a rogue, a confirmed batchelor with a decidedly dyspeptic – one might almost say misogynistic – view of women.
Habitually seen as a pioneering feminist work, that’s something hard to believe set against Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Written 30 years earlier, Ibsen’s drama strikes a keener blow for female independence with Nora’s departure than Man and superman, where Shaw’s insistence on woman driven by an insatiable Life Force to ensnare men for pro-creation is amusingly, inventively if simplistically reiterated ad nauseam.
That said, Godwin’s production is entertaining enough as a spirited battle of the sexes (with Indira Varma a perky match for Fiennes’ protesting Tanner) whilst also realising Shaw’s more sombre thoughts on Man the destroyer and his aspiration for evolutionary advancement.
Roebuck Ramsden: Nicholas Le Prevost.
Octavius Robinson: Ferdinand Kingsley.
John Tanner/Don Juan: Ralph Fiennes.
Ann Whitefield/Ana: Indira Varma.
Mrs Whitefield: Christine Kavanagh.
Miss Ramsden: Clare Clifford.
Violet: Faye Castelow.
Straker: Elliot Barnes-Worrell.
Housekeeper: Naomi Cranston.
Hector Malone: Nick Hendrix.
Malone: Corey Johnson.
Mendoza/The Devil: Tim McMullan.
The Anarchist: Colin Haigh.
The Rowdy Social Democrat: Arthur Wilson.
The Sulky Social Democrat: Naomi Cranston.
The Frenchman (Duval): Nicholas Bishop.
Police Officers: Henry Everett, Mary Keegan, Simon Markey.
Supernumeraries: Matt Hunter, James Parkes, Maxwell Tyler.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Christopher Oram.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Michael Bruce.
Vocal Music Director: Japjit Kaur
Movement: Jonathan Goddard.
Video: Luke Halls.
Illusionist: Darren Lang.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson, Daniele Lydon.
Dialect coach: Kate Godfrey.
This National Theatre production of Man and Superman opened in the Lyttelton Theatre London 17 February 2015.