Becket

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Previewed 20 October 2004, Opened 27 October 2004, Closed 11 December 2004 at the Haymarket Theatre in London

A new production adapted by Frederic Raphael and Stephen Raphael of Jean Anouilh's play Becket in London starring Dougray Scott and Jasper Britton and directed by John Caird.

"I was dazzled, I had expected to find a saint - and I found a man" Jean Anouilh's timeless and enthralling play, written in 1959, beautifully captures the conflict between friendship and duty. As a young man, Thomas Becket was anything but a saint and, as King Henry II's closest friend, he enjoyed the lifestyle only royalty could afford, the two men spending their time carefree and pleasure seeking. The terrible schism, which tears them apart, is an act of friendship and love - Henry makes Becket Archbishop of Canterbury. Finally with a purpose to his life, Becket follows his new vocation with such zeal that their two worlds can only collide.

The cast for Becket in London stars Dougray Scott as 'Becket', Jasper Britton as 'Henry II', Ann Firbank and John Quentin. The ensemble cast are joined by two choristers from Westminster Abbey who will be singing the music of award-winning composer John Cameron, who has written a major new work for this production Becket: Requiem for a Friendship. The production is directed by John Caird with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Peter Mumford, sound by John Leonard, original music by John Cameron and historial consultant Alison Weir. The 1964 film starred Richard Burton as 'Becket' and Peter O'Toole as 'Henry II' - they where both nominated for Oscars for 'Best Actor'.

"John Caird has wisely converted the whole affair into a kind of spoken opera, heavy on sound and lights and ensemble playing sinister cathedral shadows. So this is a rediscovery rather than just another revival, and what is most impressive is a new adaptation by the father-and-son team of Frederic and Stephen Raphael - one that dares to confront the central question of the play without ever crashing through the original barriers with which A nouilh surrounded the script... they have come face-to-face with the issue that somehow the author never quite explored: Was the relationship between Henry and Becket a gay love affair or not?... Caird's mesmeric production, and an immensely strong supporting cast led by Ann Firbank and John Quentin, brilliantly blow the dust off what was in danger of becoming a courtly museumpiece, and turn it back into a period political thriller about ambition, sexuality, church and state." The Daily Express

"John Caird's revival of this costume drama shows how the anxieties which the French playwright felt in the 1950s - concerning racial hatred and cycles of genocide - remain pertinent... Stephen Brimson Lewis's black-arched set is plain and simple, but the show's strength lies in its central performances. Britton is an extremely deft actor with a deceptively rumpled aura. He conveys, without overplaying, the King's jovial laddishness, arrogant brutality and insecure neediness. Scott's contrasting portrait of Becket is assured and well-sustained in its ambiguity: exuding humane gentleness and an elusive cool which might conceal ambitions or festering vengeance. That said, this play grows heavy-handed, as the action veers towards the didactic and resorts to crass comic relief." The Independent on Sunday

"The two leads make it clear that the love story between these two men is what really drives the narrative, the great sweeps of history - God, war, politics - powered by little more than hurt feelings. A few more late-night beers in the battlefield tent and it would be the stuff of slash fiction... Aside from Scott and Britton, the cast are overworked, the characters underplayed: a multitasking robe-clad blur of barons and bishops that lacks definition. The female characters might not have a lot to work with, but they fall into the cliches of acting 'wenchly' and look less like royalty than Girls Aloud. There is, too, a real lack of conviction about the set and the costumes that is so noticeable... Becket seems dated, stylistically leaden, lacking emotional edge, the grand themes somehow drifting into repetition and ennui." The Sunday Times

Becket in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 20 October 2004, opened on 27 October 2004 and closed on 11 December 2004.