Musical by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil. A true story of passion, jealousy and deception set during the turbulent times of the French religious wars. To ensure the continued prosperity of the village of Artigat, a marriage is arranged between Martin Guerre and Bertrande de Rols, still both adolescent. But Martin cannot cope with marriage and to the consternation of the village he abandons Bertrande and runs away to fight in the religious wars. Seven years pass and Martin Guerre returns to the village. Bertrande falls madly in love - but is it with the Martin Guerre who abandoned her or the Martin Guerre of her dreams? Or, indeed, is it Martin Guerre at all...
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyrics by Edward Hardy, original French text and additional lyrics by Alain Boublil, additional material by Herbert Kretzmer, book by by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. The revised version also featured additional material by Stephen Clark.
Original London West End Production 1996
Previewed 21 June 1996, Opened 10 July 1996, Closed 26 October 1996 at the Prince Edward Theatre
Original cast featured Iain Glen as 'Arnaud du Thil (Martin)' and Juliette Caton as 'Bertrande de Rols'. Directed by Declan Donnellan with choreography by Bob Avian, designs by Nick Ormerod, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Andrew Bruce.
"What a disappointment at London's Prince Edward Theatre! The much anticipated Martin Guerre, from the team that brought us the wonderful Les Miserables, is like a bit that fell off the back of the Les Miz lorry. Claude-Michel Schonberg's score is but a whisper compared to the melodic roar he produced for the world's most successful musical and its successor, Miss Saigon... and the lyrics, by the inexperienced Edward Hardy, are quite awful. With Bob Avian's choreography stranded somewhere between Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and Riverdance, it is left to a talented cast, headed by the charismatic Iain Glen as the man who steps into the shoes-and the bed-of the missing Martin, to salvage what they can from Declan Donnelan's lumpen production. It's a show where you come out humming the songs, all right. But they are the songs from Les Miserables." The News of the World
"If you can make a musical out of trains, cats and mass poverty, then in theory, you can make a musical out of anything. Religious bigotry, however, must be the most difficult of topics - and it is bigotry rather than romance which is the dramatic impulse behind Martin Guerre... The new musical from the stable which produced Les Miserables has a 3.5 million pound budget and comes amid rumours about last minute re-writes...There are some terrific dances as the villagers stomp their glee at Martin Guerre's return and later their hatred at his duplicity. It may be the element of spectacle which will save this show, despite its basic flaws." The Daily Express
"You'll forget the songs but you won't forget the name of the musical Martin Guerre at London's Prince Edward Theatre. It is pronounced Martan Guerre and was dropped so many times I began to hate the sound of it. The show, set in 16th-Century France, is all about impostors in a time of religious bigotry. But the biggest impostor is the 3.5 million pound musical which has the cheek to pass itself off as a successor to Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. At its foot-stomping best it appears to have snapped up off-cuts from Riverdance. At its worst it's a crashing bore and had me praying for the final curtan." The Daily Mirror
Martin Guerre in London at the Prince Edward Theatre previewed from 21 June 1996, opened on 10 July 1996 and closed on 26 October 1996
Revised London West End Production 1996
Previewed 1 November 1996, Opened 11 November 1996, Closed 28 February 1998 at the Prince Edward Theatre
The original cast featured Iain Glen as 'Arnaud du Thil (Martin' and Juliette Caton as 'Bertrande de Rols'. The second cast who took over during the run featured Hal Fowler as 'Arnaud du Thil (Martin)' and Jenna Russell as 'Bertrande de Rols'. Directed by Declan Donnellan with choreography by Bob Avian, designs by Nick Ormerod, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Andrew Bruce.
"The new story is clearly told, practically spelled out on signboards, and put across with maximal energy by everybody; and yet it is terribly diffuse. Since most of the show is sung, not spoken, words are at a premium. The bald facts are announced, but nothing much is explored or developed. Least of all in the music, which is almost ballad-free - at cruel cost to the central pair, 'Martin' and Bertrande. Schonberg's gift is chiefly for football-style chants and worksongs. Everything else comes in short-breathed, repetitious two-bar phrases, over two or three chords; for emotional climaxes, the performers just sing them higher and louder, with extra hammering from the orchestra... The show looks good, colourful but not fancy, and a competent cast works tremendously hard to keep it going. There is very little dancing, but plenty of stamping and manic group-miming - sowing, digging with invisible spades, pretending to slaughter Protestant enemies. It is not boring. Some people will quite like it." The Financial Times
"Now that it has reopened, Martin Guerre is a big, magnificent, epic musical, powerful and thunderous. It is what, in the old days, used to be called a great evening out... This is a big romantic melodrama, tragical-historical-sentimental-theatrical: a dazzling spectacle. Declan Donellan's direction begins with an air of lavish competence, but soon explodes into tense, controlled drama. The music has an epic sweep and can release huge waves of feeling that wipe out the occasional inanities in the lyrics. Iain Glen is a heroic hero: manly, attractive and passionate. Martin Guerre may not quite have the originality of Cats, the fervour of Les Miserables or the explosive ferocity of Miss Saigon, but neither has it the phoney glitter of Phantom of the Opera. Everyone involved should feel proud of it." The Sunday Times
"Half-a-million pounds plus untold sweat and nervous energy invested in revamping a major musical while still presenting the original version turns out to have been well spent, and impresario Cameron Mackintosh's shake-up is vindicated... It's very much a love story now - and for those still in the dark after two film versions and several books on a historic tale of impersonation, the plot and, more importantly, the motivation of conman and dupes is crystal clear... Boublil's score, vaguely inspirational yet not particularly memorable, is in key with the sombre sets and Old Master lighting. Iain Glen, as the false Martin, presents a most appealing liar, hoaxing for worthy reasons, and Juliette Caton's Bertrande, doomed to lose the man she loves, is touchingly credible. Martin, or rather Mark II Guerre, easy to grasp, eye-filling and tuneful - even if few of its tunes survive long enough to be hummed on the way home - is much the better for play-doctor Mackintosh's surgery." The Daily Mail
Martin Guerre in London at the Prince Edward Theatre previewed from 1 November 1996, opened on 11 November 1996 and closed on 28 February 1998 at the Prince Edward Theatre