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Previewed 4 November 2011, Opened 15 November 2011, Closed 28 January 2012 at the Haymarket Theatre in London
James Goldman's 1966 play The Lion in Winter in London starring Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley and directed by Trevor Nunn.
France, Christmas 1183. A family Christmas becomes a family at war. Henry II, not so young as he was, invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to spend the festive season with him, his mistress Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France. Will Henry name who is to be his successor as King of England? Their yuletide celebration turns into a combat zone of deceit, betrayal, bitter power games and scabrous wit.
The cast for this production of The Lion in Winter in London stars Robert Lindsay as 'King Henry II' and Joanna Lumley as 'Eleanor of Aquitaine' with James Norton as 'Geoffrey', Joseph Drake as 'John', Tom Bateman as 'Richard' and Rory Fleck-Byrne as 'King Philip of France' and Sonya Cassidy. The production is directed by Trevor Nunn with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Paul Edis and sound by Paul Groothuis. Robert Lindsay's recent London West End stage credits in Martin Sherman's Onassis at the Novello Theatre in 2010 and John Osborne's The Entertainer at the Old Vic Theatre in 2007. Joanna Lumley was most recently seen on the West End stage in David Hirson's award-winning comedy La BÍte at the Comedy Theatre in 2010 (also Broadway).
The play's director Trevor Nunn said: "I am excited to be directing the London premiere of a famous play about a power struggle full of sexual politics and political sex, with two such brilliant actors as Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley."
"The much bigger puzzle is why Nunn decided to revive this verbose and unsatisfying period piece in the first place. It appeared on Broadway in 1966 and was made into a 1968 Oscarwinning movie with Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Now revived, with starry leads in Lumley and Robert Lindsay, as Henry II, it feels more dated than any Victorian melodrama. The writer, James Goldman, puts at the heart of his drama that most fascinating and distinctive thing, an unhappy family, and the question: once you achieve worldly power, what then? The answer is, you pass it on to your children. But what if your sons are useless? It's as much a problem today, for business tycoons, say, as it was for medieval kings... Unexpectedly and confusingly, much of this is played for laughs. Some of the one-liners have a bracing cynicism, but many more ruin the pretence to serious historical drama and are just silly, without the delirious silliness of Monty Python. ... Much of the time, though, The Lion in Winter isn't even pretending to be true to its material." The Sunday Times
"Remember how the Morecambe and Wise Christmas specials would feature the 'play wot Ernie wrote'? Imagine one starring Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley as King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, with Eric and Ernie playing everyone else: their three sons, Henry's lover Alais and her brother Philip, all squabbling like spoilt infants about who is the favourite and who is going to be the next King. That gives something of the flavour of the funniest moments in Trevor Nunn's dire revival of James Goldman's silly play The Lion In Winter. But imagine it lasting two-and-a-half hours. Even with Lumley in full Ab Fab mode, playing the preening Queen as Cinderella's wicked stepmother, and a perma-tanned Lindsay, with the haircut of a Seventies footballer, hamming things up, it drags." The Mail on Sunday
The Lion in Winter in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 4 November 2011, opened on 15 November 2011 and closed on 28 January 2012.