Last night I went to see a play about a fanatical religious fundamentalist who follows instructions from God to fight against an occupying army, is captured, hooded, shackled, tortured and tried by a kangaroo court, then horribly put to death before becoming a revered martyr. No, it wasn't the latest play at the Tricycle about the war on terror, but a drama written the best part of a century ago by that old windbag George Bernard Shaw. Saint Joan is one of those plays that everyone knows about but is only rarely performed, but I was struck by how modern it seemed. Unlike some of Shaw's plays on late Victorian social issues such as Mrs Warren's Profession, this one hasn't dated. It's a bit on the wordy side, and some of the scenes are repetitive, but Marianne Elliott's excellent production at the National cleverly disguises these faults with a winner-takes-all combination of theatrical movement, lighting, stage design and music. As Stuart Jeffries points out in his programme note, the 15th century Joan would today probably be wearing Guantanamo orange. Joan of Arc, resistance fighter or terrorist? Discuss. Well, it all depends on where you're coming from. Shaw, in a deliberate anachronism, uses his characters to describe Joan as a protestant and a nationalist. He's not interested in historical authenticity, more in the unchanging battle between rationality and belief. Shaw was an irreligious rationalist but gave Joan all the best lines. In this production Joan is conveyed quite magically by Anne-Marie Duff, who darts around the stage with the awkward movements of a teenager but also conveys moments of self-doubt. I hope the 2007 awards juries come bearing gongs for her performance. The drab soldierly costumes inhabit a kind of theatrical no-mans-land, with suits of armour and swords alternating with drab early 20th century tunics. Normally I like costumes to be either ancient or modern, but the ambiguity of design is perfect for this highly ambiguous play. The secondary characters are well defined, particularly Angus Wright as the Earl of Warwick and Paul Ready as the Dauphin. I was captivated for all three hours of this production. I have to give the National two extra brownie points for last night's show: the slight delay in curtain-up because of a lighting hitch was properly explained to the audience and apologised for; more significantly, I now realise I have seen three first-rate productions at the National in one week, all of them directed by women. I don't think that could have happened under Trevor Nunn or Richard Eyre. My hypothetical bet on Thea Sharrock becoming the first woman to run the place remains, but perhaps I should put a fiver on Marianne Elliott as well, after Much Ado About Nothing, Therese Raquin and Pillars of the Community.