4 stars
Not to be missed is the next National Theatre Live production, the 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 and bear witness to a production which is simply superb.
Simon Godwin (who previously directed The Beaux’ Stratagem and Strange Interlude for the National Theatre) succeeds in bringing 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. However, in this case, 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 (The Grand Budapest Hotel / Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2) 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 – Testament Of Youth), 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 – Exodus: Gods And Kings / Game of Thrones). She is being pursued by the love-struck Octavius Robinson (Ferdinand Kingsley – Dracula Untold / The Last Legion) but Ann is out to marry and tame the revolutionary Jack, despite his ignorance of her plan. When his eloquent chauffer, Straker (Elliot Barnes-Worrell – The Two Gentleman Of Verona / Richard II), 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 – The Queen / Foyle’s War), who has become the Devil incarnate and they have a robust discussion on the merits of Hell versus Heaven. It is 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 production by the National Theatre, 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 once faltering and doing it in a seemingly effortless way. Man And Superman is a treat!


Previewed at Chauvel Cinemas, Sydney, on 21 June 2015


Ralph Fiennes
Indira Varma
Elliot Barnes-Worrell
Tim McMullan

Simon Goodwin

Bernard Shaw



230 minutes
(including 20 minute interval)

June 27, 2015