Play by Jean Paul Sartre, adapted from the play by Alexandre Dumas (pere), and translated into Englsh by Frank Hauser. Edmund Kean, the greatest romantic actor of the 19th century, recreated by Alexandre Dumas on the Paris stage, reinvented by Jean Paul Satre in the 20th century, translated into English by Frank Hauser. Drawn loosely from life, Kean is a pretender of the highest order, as Jean Paul Satre described him 'the actor who never ceased acting'. His private life too is a public performance - a tragi-comedy about a man with an insatiable appetite for romantic adventure, an ego as big as a stage and an inability to rescue himself from jeopardy. This cross-century collaboration is an unmissable portrait, redolent with greasepaint and overflowing with the life of the theatre. Satre's play is a passionate, sexy, funny, full-bloodied experience for anyone who loves Shakespeare, the theatre and great adventure.
Originally written shortly after Edmund Kean's last appearance in Paris in 1928 by two little known writers, Theaulon de Lambert and John de Courcy, the play was submitted to Alexandre Dumas (pere) who adapted and revised it and it was firt performed in 1836 to much success. The play was then adapted and revised again in the mid-1950s by Jean Paul Sartre and again was performed in Paris to much acclaim. Jean Paul Sartre's French version was then translated into English by Frank Hauser. This new English version was first performed in London's West End in 1971.
Original London West End Production (Globe Theatre) - 1971
Opened 28 January 1971, Closed 11 December 1971 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
The cast featured Alan Badel as 'Edmund Kean' with Lisa Daniely as 'Elena, Countess of Koefeld', Phiip Voss as 'The Prince of Wales', Frank Gatliff as 'Count de Keofeld', Ken Wynne as 'Solomon', Felicity Kendal as 'Anne Danby' and Maggie Jones as 'Amy, Countess of Gosswell'. Directed by Frank Hauser with designs by Peter Farmer and lighting by Robert Bryan. An Oxford Playhouse production.
1st West End Revival (Old Vic Theatre) - 1990
Previewed 2 August 1990, Opened 7 August 1990, Closed 24 November 1990 at the Old Vic Theatre
The cast featured Derek Jacobi as 'Edmund Kean' with Eleanor David as 'Elena, Countess of Koefeld', Nicholas Farrell as 'The Prince of Wales', Michael Godley as 'Count de Keofeld', Ian McNeice as 'Solomon', Sarah Woodward as 'Anne Danby' and Kate Duchene as 'Amy, Countess of Gosswell'. The cast also included Christopher Luscombe as 'Darius'. Directed by Sam Mendes with movement by Lindsay Dolan, designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Mich Huges, music by Jeremy Sams and sound by John A Leonard.
2nd West End Revival (Apollo Theatre) - 2007
Previewed 24 May 2007, Opened 30 May 2007, Closed 14 July 2007 at the Apollo Theatre
The cast featured Antony Sher as 'Edmund Kean' with Joanne Pearce as 'Elena, Countess de Koefeld', Alex Avery 'The Prince of Wales', Jane Murphy 'Anne Danby', Robert East 'Count de Koefeld', Sam Kelly 'Solomon' and Gemma Page as 'Amy, Countess of Gosswell'. Directed by Adrian Noble with designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Oliver Fenwick, original music by Shaun Davy and sound by John Leonard.
"Edmund Kean was the greatest English actor of the Romantic era, celebrated soon after his early, alcohol-fuelled death in a play by Alexandre Dumas, later updated in this adaptation by Sartre. What actor wouldn't relish the chance to play him, ranting and roaring around the stage in his orange buskins?... Antony Sher doesn't just relish it; he guzzles it down... This is an uneven play saved by some nice performances - Jane Murphy as Anne Danby, Alex Avery as the Prince of Wales, Sam Kelly as Kean's gruff, devoted, seen-it-all dresser Salomon -and one towering one... Kean works best as a kind of daft intellectual farce, a knowing portrait of self-deluded actors and romantics, struggling doggedly to maintain their self-delusion. Its overlong asides and expositions are weak and ponderous, but when the comedy is at full throttle, and Sher in overdrive, it has some hilarious and compelling moments." The Sunday Times
"It is good to see Antony Sher back on the West End stage. He is a difficult, complicated, often rather exasperating actor, but he is nevertheless important. What the West End is crying out for now, more than ever, is important actors in important plays... If you care anything at all about serious acting and serious plays then I beseech you to go and see this awesome piece of theatre. Portraying a great actor from history, Sher establishes himself, beyond any doubt at all, as one of the greatest stage actors of his time. And what a part it is: playing the brilliant but dissolute actor as he heads towards an inevitable nervous breakdown, Sher has to switch from low farce to high tragedy within minutes, put in convincing turns as Richard III, Shylock, Othello and Romeo, and, above all, make us care about a man who is clearly a monster." The Sunday Telegraph
"One moment Kean is breathing sweet nothings into the ear of the Danish Ambassador's wife, or hiding his casting-couch conquest behind a curtain; the next he is defining actors and acting: 'You act to lie, to lie to yourself, to be what you cannot be and because you are disgusted with what you are.' Which may or may not have been the case for Kean - who seems confused about quite a lot, not least whether he's supposed to be giving his Lear or Romeo - but it hardly applies to most actors and certainly not to Sher, who, as well as acting, excels as a writer, illustrator and almost anything he chooses... Bizarrely, Adrian Noble's production moves the play to the Fifties, Sartre's time, presumably to make better sense of the existential strains. The idea that acting, like genius and royalty, is a delusion just about communicates itself. The real trouble is that Kean's bravura style loses its currency in this context. For all his technical virtuosity, few sparks fly in Anthony Sher's rather muted performance - at least by his own standards - and the play is simply a bore." The Mail on Sunday
"Antony Sher himself is at his best where Kean plays Shakespeare, hammy to modern eyes as he milks the oohs and aahs in Othello's last act with Desdemona, but giving us a glimpse of raw acting power from an age where players fought to outshine each other. But in most of the action we see Kean as himself, blurring the difference between acting and reality as he runs his complex liaisons, and resenting his exclusion from polite society. In a bombastic performance where you can see the sweat on his chin, Sher leers like an inky schoolboy and has all the charm of an overfed ferret. His Kean is boorish a celebrity actor, desperate to be loved in his own right, who is also in love with the sound of his own voice. But the problem with boors is that they can be a terrible bore to watch and Sher's bullish approach doesn't have the lightness of touch that might leaven the experience." The Daily Express
Kean in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 24 May 2007, opened on 30 May 2007 and closed on 14 July 2007