The Beau

Previewed 21 May 2001, Opened 24 May 2001, Closed 23 June 2001 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal

A major production of Ron Hutchinson's new play The Beau in London starring Peter Bowles and Richard McCabe for a strictly limited season only

"I have no talents other than to dress; my genius is in the wearing of clothes." It is the Winter of 1819. The most famous wit and dandy of them all, the man who taught a generation of Englishmen how to dress, friend and confidant to lords, ladies and royalty, is preparing to receive the Prince of Wales. But this is not any of the fashionable watering holes where for years Beau Brummell held court to Regency swells. The most stylish man of his day may still be more interested in cuffs, collars and creases than matters of life and death, but now lives in a madhouse in Calais with his valet, determined as ever to relive past glories.

The cast features Peter Bowles as 'Beau Brummell' and Richard McCabe as his valet 'Austin'. Directed by Caroline Hunt with designs by Ashley Martin-Davis and lighting by Paul Pyant.

This production was originally hoping to run up to mid-August 2001, but posted early closing notices for 23 June 2001 after a run of just five weeks.

"Peter Bowles was born to play Beau Brummell, the Georgian dandy who finds himself in exile in calais after a quip which offended the gutbucket Prince Regent. Richard McCabe is his unpaid, uppity valet. Ron HHutchinson's play, The Beau, has the two outcasts debating sartorial style - a religion for Brummell - in abject poverty. It's witty, intelligent, delightfully snobbish and totally inert." The Daily Express

"The Beau is set in 1819 in a Calais madhouse, where Brummell, who committed social suicide with an ill-judged jibe about the prince's ample girth, is holed up... The play is a modest, entertaining enough two-hander. While Brummell slips into reveries of his glory days, his down-at-heel, unpaid valet Austin tries to engage in debate about the differences in the French and British revolutionary temperament and the cult of celebrity with Brummell as the early epitome of being famous for being famous. Bowles makes a touching figure of frail dignity... McCabe's grubby, berating servant is equally forlorn, a would-be revolutionary prone to sloganeering rather than action. These are both fine performances but the play never allows the characters' relationship to coalesce and denies the actors any substantial interplay... Caroline Hunt's production leaves you with the impression that Bowles should take an hour-long solo show about Brummell on the road while McCabe is crying out to play one of Moliere's manipulative servants." The Times

"'There is no more intimate act that one man can perform for another,' declares Beau Brummell in Ron Hutchinson's new two-hander, 'unless they both be practitioners of the Spanish Vice'. He's referring to the highly personal ceremony of a valet dressing his master. But by the time the play catches up with the great Regency dandy he is, in more ways than one, a couple of cuffs short of the full wardrobe. We find him in threadbare exile in Calais, where he fled to escape his gambling debts, and our first sight of this legendary fashion victim (excellently played by Peter Bowles) is naked in his bath, trying to summon up the courage to slash his throat with a razor. Richard McCabe's divertingly bolshie valet can only dissuade him from such suicide attempts by pretending some English aristocrat (who all turned their backs on Brummell) is favouring them with a visit... Playing Brummell with a lofty, pained fastidiousness, Bowles succeeds in making you feel that there is something heroic, as well as absurd, in this man's barmy determination to keep up appearances even in the most sordid circumstances. He lets you see that, for Brummell, the act of getting dressed is not so much a ceremony as a sacrament. When, having been ignored by George IV, he returns to take off his futile finery, there's a terrible pathos in the punctilious loving care with which he inspects, brushes and folds each decaying item." The Independent

"Peter Bowles, who has cornered the market in well-dressed gentlemen, was born to play Beau Brummell... Ron Hutchinson's The Beau catches up with the legendary wit and dandy in early 19th century Calais when he is down at heel and down on his luck. Banished from court for making a quip about The Prince Of Wales being fat, the dedicated leader of fashion finds himself reduced to rags. His only companion in a seedy apartment is an equally seedy valet who spends the time dressing and undressing Brummell and humouring him by taking part in imaginary conversations with visiting aristocrats. Bowles is brilliant as the fallen fop and Richard McCabe provides sterling support as the squalid manservant. Only at the end do we discover that the apartment is a padded cell in a madhouse, and the valet is the keeper of the keys. Bowles deserves an Olivier Award not only for his performance, but also for his bravery for taking a bath onstage and showing his bottom." The Daily Mirror

The Beau in London at the Haymarket Theatre Royal previewed from 21 May 2001, opened on 24 May 2001 and closed on 23 June 2001