Terrance Rattigan's back stage comedy. A classical theatre company attempts to produce Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and Romeo and Juliet. But while the intrigues and dalliances of the company members are accidently revealed with increasingly chaotic and hysterical consequences, it is the particularly superannuated, theatrical duo who are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet for the umpteenth time that are desparately trying to keep real life at a safe, stagy distance. Normally presented under the heading Playbill as the second-half of a double-bill with Rattigan's The Browning Version.
Harlequinade (with The Browning Version) - Original London West End Production 1948
Opened 8 September 1948, Closed 9 April 1949 at the Phoenix Theatre
The double-bill was called 'Playbill'. The cast featured Eric Portman as 'Arthur Gosport', Mary Ellis as 'Edna Selby' and Marie Lohr as 'Dame Maud Gosport' with Hector Ross as 'Jack Wakefield', Kenneth Edwards as 'George Chudleigh', Peter Scott as 'First Halberdier', Basil Howes as 'Second Halberdier', Noel Dyson as 'Miss Fishlock', Anthony Oliver as 'Fred Ingram', Henry Bryce as 'Johnny', Thelma Ruby as 'Muriel Palmer', Patrick Jordan as 'Tom Palmer', Campbell Cotts as 'Mr Burton', Henryetta Edwards as 'Joyce Langland' and Manville Tarrant as 'Policewoman'. Directed by Peter Glenville with designs by Paul Sheriff.
Harlequinade (with The Browning Version) - National Theatre London Revival 1980
Previewed 8 May 1980, Opened 13 May 1980, Closed 21 March 1981 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
The cast featured Alec McCowen as 'Arthur Gosport', Geraldine McEwan as 'Edna Selby' and Ellen Pollock as 'Dame Maud Gosport' with Nicky Henson as 'Jack Wakefield', Leonard Maguire as 'George Chudleigh', Chris Cregan as 'First Halberdier', Graeme Henderson as 'Second Halberdier', Heather Tobias as 'Miss Fishlock', Michael Shallard as 'Fred Ingram', Peter Bourke as 'Johnny', Jennie Stoller as 'Muriel Palmer', Anthony Falkingham as 'Tom Palmer', Dallas Cavell as 'Mr Burton', Karina Knight as 'Joyce Langland' and Antony Brown as 'Policeman'. Directed by Michael Rudman with designs by Carl Toms, lighting by Brian Ridley and sound by Gabby Haynes.
Harlequinade (with The Browning Version) - 1st London West End Revival 1988
Previewed 11 March 1988, Opened 17 March 1988, Closed 30 April 1988 at the Royalty Theatre (now Peacock Theatre)
Note: The order of the two productions was reversed in this staging. The cast featured Paul Eddington as 'Arthur Gosport', Dorothy Tutin as 'Edna Selby' and Jean Anderson as 'Dame Maud Gosport' with John Duttine as 'Jack Wakefield', Jak watling as 'George Chudleigh', Daniel Beales as 'First Halberdier', Bill Neville as 'Second Halberdier', Anna Quayle as 'Miss Fishlock', Karl James as 'Fred Ingram', John Skitt as 'Johnny', Sarah-Jane Holm as 'Muriel Palmer', Simon Shepherd as 'Tom Palmer', Malcolm Mudie as 'Mr Burton', Julie Dawn Cole as 'Joyce Langland' and Stephen Churchett as 'Policeman'. Directed by Tim Luscombe with designs by Carl Toms and lightng by Leonard Tucker.
Harlequinade (with All On My Own) - 2nd London West End Revival 2015
Previewed 24 October 2015, Opened 7 November 2015, Closed 13 January 2016 (in repertory) at the Garrick Theatre
A major 'double-bill' revival of Terence Rattigan's The Harlequinade starring Kenneth Branagh and the one-woman play All On Her Own starring ZoŽ Wanamaker - playing in repertory with Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
The cast featured Kenneth Branagh as 'Arthur Gosport', Miranda Raison as 'Edna Selby' and Zoe Wanamaker as 'Dame Maud Gosport' with Tom Bateman as 'Jack Wakefield', John Shrapnel as 'George Chudleigh', Hadley Fraser as 'First Halberdier', Jaygann Ayeh as 'Second Halberdier', Vera Chok as 'Miss Fishlock', Stuart Neal as 'Fred Ingram', Ansu Kabia as 'Johnny', Jessie Buckley as 'Muriel Palmer', Jack Colgrave Hirst as 'Tom Palmer', Jimmy Yuill as 'Mr Burton', Kathryn Wilder as 'Joyce Langland' and John Dagleish as 'Policeman' Directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Neil Austin, music by Patrick Doyle and sound by Christopher Shutt.
Rattigan's All On Her Own was originally written as a television play for Margaret Leighton that was broadcast on BBC 2 on 25 September 1968. He then adapted the play for the stage, re-naming the piece Duologue, and it received it's London Premiere at the fringe theatre The King's Head on 21 February 1976 with Barbara Jefford playing the role of the grieving widow. For this London revival the role was taken by ZoŽ Wanamaker.
When this double-bill opened here at the Garrick Theatre in November 2015, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted how "an ensemble of 17 gallantly whip up the farcical froth." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times praised it as being "an infectiously warm-hearted production. Kenneth Branagh is very funny... and ZoŽ Wanamaker is enjoyable as a boozy old thesp." Ann Treneman in the Times said that, in All On Her Own, ZoŽ Wanamaker "is terrific, funny and vulnerable, slapstick and sad," while Harlequinade "is amusing in its sit-com way, pleasant enough froth. But if Iíd had a channel changer I would have used it a few times." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail described how "Sir Ken Branagh has disinterred a deliciously camp comedy by the late, and normally so tight-bitten, Terence Rattigan... Some may find this show too full of 'in' theatre jokes, but I loved it... The one problem is that it lasts only an hour. To fill the show out into a more substantial evening they tack on, beforehand, a Rattigan monologue about an implausibly boozy widow returning to her empty house in Hampstead. I suspect that anyone who has lost a spouse may find the piece terribly hard to watch. But apart from the obvious sense of loss, it is hard to discern much force to the playlet." Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that it "comes across as just an inoffensive, irritating pauperís Noises Off in miniature... ZoŽ Wanamaker, who, in the monologue All On Her Own, written by Rattigan in the 1960s for TV, brings a brilliant, layered depth to the role of the newly widowed woman who hits the whisky and pay dirt as she talks to the departed husband who may or may not have killed himself." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard commented how "this slight and appealingly silly piece is preceded by Rattiganís All On Her Own, a monologue originally written for TV and delivered here by ZoŽ Wanamaker. As Rosemary, a widow tossing back the whisky as she seeks to summon the spirit of her late husband, her performance is at once fierce and melancholy ó finely judged and genuinely sad."
"A double bill of skippable minor Rattigans, All on Her Own and Harlequinade. In the former... ZoŽ Wanamaker works tremendously hard to give the piece dramatic heft. The way she lies down on a sofa, as if stretching herself out on her husband's body, tells us far more about longing and penitence than Rattigan's playlet. 'Bit scatterbrained, isn't he?' someone says of Arthur Gosport, the vainglorious nitwit thesp in the one-act Harlequinade. 'I doubt if you can scatter a void,' his stage manager replies. This 1948 backstage comedy sees Branagh ham-dramming agreeably, sending himself up... The company draw a surprising amount of comic mileage from this shallow nostalgia trip." The Sunday Times
"For the next year, Kenneth Branagh's star-studded company of actors will be hogging much of the limelight in the West End. The launch of his season with two little-known Terence Rattigan shorts and one classic Shakespeare - now each playing on separate days - was ablaze with star wattage as the actor/director took his bows with fellow cast members Judi Dench and Zoe Wanamaker. It was an impressive, if not quite peerless, start... The Rattigans offer a mix of the mournful and the madcap. In the monologue All On Her Own, Wanamaker is terrific as a grieving widow who is seemingly possessed by the ghost of her husband. In Harlequinade, Branagh returns as a twinkle-toed thesp who heads a company of actors. It's a sweet, funny piece in which Rattigan makes merciless fun of actors' vanity and in which Branagh appears to make much fun of himself." The London Metro
"Running in rep at the Garrick as a double-bill are a missable brace of plays by Terence Rattigan, loosely (and ludicrously) linked thematically with The Winterís Tale... Expert comic timing from a company having a high old time hamming it up canít make this into anything more than a love letter to a mercifully lost dramatic age." The Mail on Sunday
"Harlequinade is a flimsy farce about the private and professional tribulations of Arthur Gosport, a middle-aged actor manager, taking a tired production of Romeo And Juliet on tour. Branagh extracts maximum humour from Gosport's unexpected discovery that he is a grandfather, while still trying to convince as the 17-year-old Romeo. Tom Bateman is superb as his harassed stage manager and Hadley Fraser delightful as a newly promoted extra. Overall, however, this sort of gentle satire on thespian egotism, coarse acting and backstage disasters holds more appeal for theatre professionals than the public. It is preceded by All On Her Own, a contrived monologue for a recent widow. Not even the luminous Zoe Wanamaker can make it work." The Sunday Express
Harlequinade in London at the Garrick Theatre with previewed from 24 October 2015, opened on 7 November 2015 and closed on 13 January 2016.