Harley Granville Barker as John Tanner and Lillah McCarthy as Anne Whitefield in Man and Superman

Harley Granville Barker as John Tanner and Lillah McCarthy as Anne Whitefield in Man and Superman

George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, set in London, Richmond, the Sierra Nevada and Hell, is subtitled A Comedy and a Philosophy. The plot concerns John Tanner, the author of a book called 'The Revolutionist's Handbook' who, although advanced in his thinking concerning women's emancipation, is intellectually fearful of having to relate to them in reality. The play takes us on a philosophical journey where we see how the powerful Ann, a childhood friend of Tanner's, wins him as a husband through subtle manoeuvring and bare-faced lies.

This picture is from the original 1905 production, staged at the Royal Court Theatre. Harley Granville Barker playing Tanner, looks suspiciously like George Bernard Shaw, the author of the play. Lillah McCarthy, playing Ann, was to become Mrs Granville Barker. It was a marriage that dismayed Shaw, who felt responsible for them as their theatrical father-figure. They also took the leads in Shaw's follow-up success of this time The Doctor's Dilemma.