Fortune's Fool

Previewed 6 December 2013, Opened 19 December 2013, Closed 22 February 2014 at the Old Vic Theatre in London.

Ivan Turgenev's play Fortune's Fool in London adapted by Mike Poulton and starring Richard McCabe.

A pair of newlyweds arrive at their country estate to be welcomed by Kuzovkin, the penniless gentleman-in-residence who has poured all his money into a hopeless court case to win back land that is rightfully his. Their wealthy and mischievous neighbour Tropatchov (Richard McCabe) calls by for a seemingly innocent celebratory lunch. Fuelled by champagne the proceedings degenerate, leading to a shocking revelation with far-reaching consequences.

The cast for Fortune's Fool in London features Richard McCabe as 'Tropatchov' and along with Lucy Briggs-Owen, Dyfan Dwyfor, Janet Fullerlove, Paul Ham, Richard Henders, Simon Markey and Alexander Vlahos. The production is directed by Lucy Bailey with designs by William Dudley, lighting by Bruno Poet, music by John Eacott and sound by Mic Pool. PLEASE NOTE: Iain Glen was originally playing the role of 'Kuzovkin' when this production opened, unfortunately, following doctor's advice, Iain Glen has now had to withdraw from this production. William Houston was then announced to take over the role, but he has now also withdrawn from this production. The part of 'Kuzovkin' is therefore being played by the understudy Patrick Cremin.

Rarely performed, Ivan Turgenev's 1852 play Fortune's Fool is also known in English as The Poor Gentleman and The Parasite. This production marks the plays debut on the West End stage. Mike Poulton's adaptation was staged on Broadway in 2002 when it was nominated for three Tony Awards, winning 'Best Actor in a Play' for Alan Bates and 'Best Featured Actor in a Play' for Frank Langella. Ivan Turgenev's other stage plays include A Month in The Country which was last seen in London's West End in 1994 starring Helen Mirren and John Hurt and Fathers and Sons which was staged at the National Theatre in 1987 starring Alec McCowen and Ralph Fiennes.

Mike Poulton's West End credits include adaptations of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Gielgud Theatre in 2006 and Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos starring Derek Jacobi at the Gielgud Theatre in 2005. Iain Glen's recent West End acting credits include the role of 'Pastor Manders' in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts opposite Lesley Sharp as 'Mrs Alving' at the Duchess Theatre in 2010, the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible playing the central role of 'John Proctor' at the Gielgud Theatre in 2006, the role of 'Judge Brack' in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler opposite Eve Best as 'Hedda Gabler' at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2005 and the title role in the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil musical Martin Guerre Prince Edward Theatre in 1996. Richard McCabe's London theatre credits include Peter Morgan's play The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre in 2013 playing the role of 'Harold Wilson' opposite Helen Mirren as 'Queen Elizabeth II' and the role of 'Sir Toby Belch' in the RSC's 2009 revival of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Duke of York's Theatre.

The director Lucy Bailey said regarding this play that: "It does strangely feel like a Christmas play. It's a tragi-comedy, or comedy-tragedy, or tragedy-romance-comedy, it's got so many elements. It's a delicate, delightful piece but very painful at times and also extremely funny. The estate in the play is a little fiefdom, a microcosm of Russia. That's what's exciting about Ivan Turgenev's work, he's always conscious of social hierarchies and the cruelties that exist within them, the unfairness of life. There is a real streak of angry questioning of those injustices, and of the disgusting class system. I mean, we can really relate to that in England, to extreme poverty and to a sense of a mass that is being held in place and deliberately kept poor in order to allow the rich to be rich. Even as I say it, you can hear the bells ringing, can't you, in our current society?"

"Kuzovkin, the fool of the title, has been living in the linen cupboard of a well-to-do family's country pile for more than 30 years. The retum of the daughter, Olga, and her new husband puts his situation in jeopardy, and things are greatly worsened when porcine landowner Tropatchov gets him drunk for sport, and a mortified Kuzovkin blurts out a shocking truth about Olga. Director Lucy Bailey builds to the Act One crescendo with an assured hand, savouring the savage humour of the piece. But Turgenev glides over deeper characterisation in his bid to hold a class and its prejudices up to ridicule, which makes the second-act endeavours to untangle the mess Kuzovkin has created a little hard to care about. Nevertheless, Iain Glen brings admirable grace to Kuzovkin, a shattered man grasping at his dignity, and Richard McCabe’s monstrous, peacocking Tropatchov is like a malignant force of nature, devouring your attention." The Metro

"This neglected Russian play features the most disastrous, drunken lunch I’ve ever seen on stage and a clutch of the best performances currently in the West End, all set on a vast country estate that makes Downton Abbey look pokey. If you’ve longed for hundreds of serfs or dreamed of living in idleness in the countryside, this scathing satire will set you straight... Iain Glen, more recently seen in the TV series Game Of Thrones, is tremendous as the drunken, dispossessed victim, whose hangover in the second act reveals a character of real integrity and sorrow. Lucy Briggs-Owen is surely a star of the future as Olga, the tender young mistress of the house... The rest of the cast is pretty flawless... It looks good, too, with William Dudley’s set a veritable Antiques Roadshow of furniture, portraits and vistas into ornamental gardens. Even if you are aware of creaks in the plotting and some rather over-egged satire, the play comes with sudden lurches of depth and raw feeling that Lucy Bailey’s clever direction maximises at every turn." The Mail on Sunday

"Iain Glen plays the impoverished Kuzovkin, who lives free on a Russian estate. Treated with contempt by the servants, he is nervously awaiting the arrival of a new master. Richard McCabe is the flamboyant Tropatchov, a neighbour who delights in others' unhappiness... McCabe is in brilliant form as he storms into the room like an Exocet unleashed. Glen could be more raddled but he bravely reveals the less admirable aspects of Kuzovkin's character. As the play hurtles towards its compelling conclusion, one may long for Kuzovkin to be less cringing, but the greater desire is to see Tropatchov drop dead." The Sunday Times

"I think Iain does not want to play by central casting rules. He wants to really challenge himself with characters you would not immediately assume were close to him. He comes across as quite a strong alpha male, Iain, in person, but his attraction is for characters who are everything but," said play's director Lucy Bailey. "This is an incredibly painful role and that is attractive to Iain too. He is a highly detailed actor, incredibly technical, does wonderfully intense preparation, but he suddenly lets go and goes into a places you cannot believe. He allows a very feminine soft side of his belly to be shown and that is so exciting, but he also brings intense dignity to the part. The man has — and I say it carefully — an almost Christ-like dignity in the face of adversity. He has enormous grace and Iain brings that out of the part in spades. You might be teetering on a laugh and the next moment he is magnificent and almost heroic."

Fortune’s Fool in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 6 December 2013, opened on 19 December 2013 and closed on 22 February 2014.