Thursday, 19 March 2015

Theatre 2015: Review Eight

Man and Superman, The Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre, London. March 2015.

There has been a little gap in my theatre jaunts, partly thanks to fear of bad weather and partly because the train line between Norwich and London has been so appalling this winter, however recently Rebecca and I had one of our mammoth theatre weekends in London.  Three plays in effectively 27 hours.

First up was Man and Superman which in its own right is a bit of a big-one coming in at over three and a half hours.  Mainly it has to be said due to the author, George Bernard Shaw, who seems never to use one word if fifty will do and then to say it all twice.

That being said this was still, thanks to the cast, an enjoyable experience.  Jack Tanner, Ralph Fiennes, has been appointed an unwilling co-guardian of his friend's daughter Anne.  He is what in the early 1900s was a new man and not keen on this burden and as a radical thinks himself unsuitable for the role and for romance in general. Anne thinks him ideal for the role and also a great romantic catch.

While the acting, costumes and set were all good I did find that some of the ideas that Bernard Shaw put forward as progressive in his time now felt dated and entirely sexist. Anne is not really an independent and intelligent woman but rather a scheming manipulative one who always gets her own way.  Jack and her mother both see through her but seem unable to stop or change her and as a result I never warmed to her character and really hoped that the play would have a different outcome.

The play is so long because stuck in the middle of the action is a dream sequence where Jack Tanner morphs in to Don Juan and ends up in hell debating philosophy with the devil.  This started well and was wonderfully different from the rest of the play but just went on for too long and in the end I did lose a little of the plot and was longing for Andy Hamilton's version of the devil from Old Harry's Game to appear and put an end to it.

Oh dear - again this sounds terribly negative and this isn't quite how I feel about the play. There was a lot of humour and visually it was a treat. It was also brave to stage the whole thing and without the excellent cast this would have fallen completely flat but I do think that a little editing wouldn't have gone amiss, and I was uncomfortable with the way woman in the character of Anne was portrayed.

Rebecca had an interesting idea - the play should be restaged but with the main characters' genders switched...

This play will be broadcast live to cinemas in May but once was enough for me on this occasion.

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