This is the latest live broadcasts from the National Theatre in London, starring the force of nature that is Ralph Fiennes in the GB Shaw bladder-busting 240 minute production.
This is a play that has seldom been performed, – it’s last at the National in 1981, but it is a real tour de force, and incredibly funny. Fiennes is on stage throughout as John Tanner, a wealthy radical, and also as Don Juan in a dream sequence. the story is about him being appointed guardian to a childhood friend Anne, and the play moves from a London library to a country road in Spain, to hell and then to a hotel in Granada. The play is full of humour and brilliant one liners on the meaning of life, but in particular, on the battle between men and women.
It is wonderful, but I cannot see why they insisted in placing it in the present rather than a century ago; it is clearly an attempt to draw in a young audience, but it meant that much of what went on felt odd. why would a childhood friend be seen as a suitable guardian for an adult orphan woman? Why would he have a chauffer? and the wealthy American coming to Britain to buy up an ancient pile and Spanish bandits robbing them really does show the play’s age.
Fiennes was brilliant at rattling off the lines at high speed, but at times this felt overwhelming. There was too many clever lines, too much energy.At times it felt like a race rather than a play. I can well understand why parts of it were omitted in the past. I think Shaw tried too hard to fit too much in a single play.
As I said, I really loved it, and Indira Varma was wonderfully sexy and beautiful and funny as Ann, the staging was fantastic, and the supporting cast great, but I wish the play was either trimmed or split into two.