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The Man of Destiny

George Bernard Shaw
BBC
(2007)

Shaw introduces this play by saying that it is "A fictitious paragraph of history". It is really a slight fantasy set in at 1796 featuring Napoleon Bonaparte, before he was famous.

One might suspect at the end, that when Napoleon opines that "The English are a very stupid people" and then justifies this view in Shavian terms, the real purpose of writing The Man of Destiny has been discovered.

However, while the English might be stupid, they could hardly compete with a Lieutenant played by David Troughton who gives up vital papers and his horse to a pretty woman dressed as a man but by no means convincingly.

This though forms the basis for the hour-long comedy in that it brings together The Lady, played by Delphine Seyrig, with Simon Callow as the future Emperor.

We are asked to believe that following a famous victory, the Lieutenant would be tricked out of his papers by a friend of Josephine, who apparently feared being compromised soon after her marriage.

The charming Lady not only gets the papers but also runs verbal rings around Napoleon as they philosophically discuss finding and losing letters and the morality of reading those that may contain unwanted news or information that was not intended for the reader's eyes.

This is hardly Shaw at his best although it presents a nice opportunity to see these three actors having fun so long ago.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher