La BÍte

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Previewed 28 June 2010, Opened 7 July 2010, Closed 4 September 2010 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London

A major revival of David Hirson's award-winning comedy La Bete in London starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley.

American playwright David Hirson's 1991 comedy La BÍte is a comic tour de force about Elomire, a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theatre, and Valere, a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess decides she's grown weary of Elomire's royal theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown for the ages.

The cast for La Bete in London features David Hyde Pierce as 'Elomire', Mark Rylance as 'Valere' and Joanna Lumley as 'Princess Conti'. It is directed by Matthew Warchus with designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Claire van Kampen and sound by Simon Baker. Following this West End run, this production will transfer to New York's Music Box Theatre on Broadway.

When David Hirson's La Bete was originally presented in London at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith starring Alan Cummings, the production won the 1992 Olivier Award for 'Best Comedy'.

On Broadway David Hyde Pierce starred in Curtains, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, and he originated the role of 'Brave Sir Robin' in Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway. David Hyde Pierce is best known for his performance as 'Dr Niles Crane' in the multi award-winning American sitcom Frasier, it was for this role that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for eleven consecutive years and winning four times in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004. This production marks his West End debut. Recently Mark Rylance played 'Robert' in the comedy Boeing-Boeing both in the West End and on Broadway for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. He was the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre where he appeared in many productions. In the West End he played 'Benedict' in Much Ado about Nothing for which he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor. His film and television work includes The Other Boleyn Girl, Prospero's Books and The Government Inspector for which he won the BAFTA Best Actor Award for his role as 'David Kelly'. Joanna Lumley is best known for playing 'Patsy Stone' in the award-winning BBC television series, Absolutely Fabulous and as 'Purdy' in The New Avengers.

"With the line-up that boasts a national treasure (Joanna Lumley), our finest comic actor (Mark Rylance) and an American TV superstar (Frasier's David Hyde Pierce), it's no wonder that La Bete was this summer's hottest ticket and is already bound for Broadway. Big mistake. Neither Matthew Warchus's handsome production nor a crack cast can make David Hirson's sterile 1999 play into something special. Line by line or, rather, rhyming couplet by rhyming couplet (the piece is mock-Moliere and set in the 17th Century), the writing can be dazzling... Rylance, that most chameleon of actors, appears to have grown a foot and lost a stone since his recent spellbinding performance in Jerusalem. Now he resembles a 17th Century Sir Les Patterson, whose false teeth he appears to have borrowed... He's disgustingly, deliriously funny and you can't take your eyes off him. Poor old Hyde Pierce's Elomire is wretchedly upstaged in a role with nothing like as much verbal firepower. Ms Lumley prances about in pantaloons and scarlet wig looking like an ancient Alice in Wonderland and sounding posher than the Queen. With no drama and too many words, Hirson's would-be souffle-like debate about the decline of culture in a society where 'mediocrity is bound to thrive /while excellence must struggle to survive' falls as flat as a pancake." The Mail on Sunday

"Written for Broadway in 1991, set in a French court in 1654, entirely in rhyming couplets, it defies categorisation. You are forced to laugh all through and then confront a bleak unresolved ending to the central question. The bÍte of the title is the beast in us which triumphs when we laugh at deep concepts. Maybe it wins... Mark Rylance, of course, shines. Who else could hold us, hysterical yet horrified, for the first half of David Hirson's headlong play as he preens and digresses, a compulsive deluded entertainer rebuilding the very language... It's grown-up panto, it's clever, it's quite deep, it could not be better done. You may hate it, but you'll never see anything quite like it again." The Times

La Bete in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 28 June 2010, opened on 7 July 2010 and closed on 4 September 2010.