Firstly, I’m not entirely sure this review will do the production any justice at all. It’s that incredible.
I saw Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 play, at my local cinema thanks to National Theatre Live’s live broadcasting system.
I want to just talk about the broadcasting system before going into the play. Whoever came up with the idea is an absolute genius. Completely. Whenever I go to the theatre I love it, every single time, but can’t go very often due to travelling costs and hefty ticket prices. That’s the trouble of being a poor student. So this broadcasting stuff is perfect for me and anyone in a similar situation. So much cheaper and close by! I know some people will probably say that it’s not the same atmosphere, you don’t get the same view, it’s just not the same occasion of going to the theatre. And that’s fair enough, you can’t really contest those points too much. But the atmosphere in the cinema is unlike anything you’d have experienced, it feels so bizarre to clap in a cinema screen that it makes you weirdly happy. The camera work is always so good that you forget you’re not actually in a theatre and get so absorbed in the performance. I seriously could not recommend taking advantage of this more; one of the best uses of modern technology I’ve ever seen.
Anyway, onto the actual play! I went into this with no idea what it was actually about. Just that Shaw wrote it and Ralph Fiennes was leading it. To sum it up, it was brilliant, hilarious, and poignant. Man and Superman explores gender roles, ideas of societal constraints, and the pursuit of happiness. You have young, independent women who make sure they marry who they want to, defying cultural expectations of them. Men who feel pressured by the women and society to conform to marriage and relationship expectations, and the men who do everything right to win the girl then don’t win them in the end.
It raises questions of personal freedom against what we ought to do, and the heaven and hell scene depicts this perfectly. Debating whether we should strive for pure happiness or contemplate the repercussions of our actions. Should we abandon rationality and over-thinking or mourn the loss of morality? Showing that the temptation of hell may prove to be too much, whilst the simplicity of heaven will leave you with no purpose.
It raises all of these questions in such a clever and funny way. Every actor and actress performed each role perfectly, delivering key lines in just the right way so that you realise their importance and intended impact whilst keeping their laugh-out-loud comedic effect. I cannot express this enough.
Finally, the sets that were used were incredible. Some of them being the perfect balance of simplistic and complimentary towards the play. Others being so realistic you’d think they actually took a chunk out of a Spanish hillside and put it on stage. Utterly amazing.
I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just say that if there are ever any encore screenings, definitely go and see it. It is so, so worth it.