Man and Superman
Director: Simon Godwin
Writer: George Bernard Shaw
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma, Nicholas le Prevost, Tim McMullan, Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Faye Castelow, Nick Hendrix, Corey Johnson, Christine Kavanagh
Seen on: 14.5.2015
After the death of her father, Ann (Indira Varma) is supposed to get two new guardians: Roebuck Ramsden (Nicholas le Prevost) and Jack Tanner (Ralph Fiennes). The problem is that the two of them hate each other, Tanner has no interest in being a guardian and Ramsden does not want to share the position with Tanner who he considers a dangerous revolutionary. But Ann is headstrong and smart and manages to convince both of them to do it anyway, not only fulfilling her father’s wishes but also her own: she has plans for and designs on Jack and is bent on making them real, no matter what Jack might think about it.
Man and Superman has very funny moments, but it left me reeling from the blatant misogyny that soaks every scene.
Man and Superman is a play about how all women are manipulative schemers, who only want to trap men in marraige and secure their own positions like that. Within that scheming these women can get rather smart, so that the poor men – who would rather spend time on the more important things in life – can’t do anything about it, but have to helplessly endure. And of course, if the women leave a couple of men heartbroken on their way to marriage, it’s a special badge of honor for them. That portrayal really is a special brand of misogyny that is so pure, you almost have to admire it. But only almost. I got stuck at horrified.
Indira Varma does her damnedest not to let Ann be a complete stereotype, but with that text, it is a fight against windmills. At least she is magnificent while she fights it. Ralph Fiennes is less magnificent, at least compared to usual Fiennesian standard. There were a few weird character choices (like the fact that he played Tanner as completely lopsided), but I was also irritated by the casting in itself: although Ann and Jack are only a few years apart, Fiennes looks so much older than Varma that I started doing age math during the show, which also goes to show how little involved I was in it.
The play does have wonderful moments. The brigands were extremely funny and every once in a while even other jokes throughout the play would really hit their mark and I kept thinking that maybe a feminist re-interpreation of the play (like 10 Things I Hate About You does for The Taming of the Shrew) would be a worthwhile endeavor.
But the version we saw was too long (maybe they should have skipped that dream sequence that is usually skipped, although it was pretty funny) and plain antiquated and offensive in its view on women. It would have better remained in the distant past.