The Misanthrope

Comedy by Molière.

Arguably the play's first major London West End English language production in 'modern' times was Robert Atkins' 1937 production at the Ambassadors Theatre which played for a straight two-week run. Following this, perhaps the most important English language production, and the one which established the play within the modern English-language theatrical repertoire, was John Dexter's revival at the Old Vic Theatre for the National Theatre Company in 1973.

1937 West End Ambassadors Theatre with Francis James and Lydia Lopokova

1948 West End Cambridge Theatre by the Comedie Francaise (in French)

1956 West End Palace Theatre by the Compagnie Renaud-Barrault (in French)

1962 West End Piccadilly Theatre by L'Association Francaise D'Action Artistique (in French)

1973 West End Old Vic Theatre with Alec McCowen and Diana Rigg

1981 London Roundhouse Theatre with Tom Courtenay and Cecilia Richards

1989 London Young Vic Theatre with William Elliott and Fiona McAlpine

1989 London NT Lyttelton Theatre with Edward Petherbridge and Sian Thomas

1996 London Young Vic Theatre with Ken Stott and Elizabeth McGovern

1998 West End Piccadilly Theatre with Michael Pennington and Elaine Paige

2009 West End Comedy Theatre with Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley


1937 West End London Revival with Francis James and Lydia Lopokova

Opened 23 February 1937, Closed 6 March 1937 at the Ambassadors Theatre

The cast included Francis James as 'Alceste', Lydia Lopokova as 'Celimene', Holland Bennett as 'Philinte', Hedley Briggs as 'Oronte', and Rosalind Atkinson as 'Arsinoe'.

Directed by Robert Atkins with designs by Andre Derain.

Presented in a translation by Elsie Elizabeth Duncan-Jones, as a 'double-bill' with Frederick Ashton's ballet Harlequin in the Street.


1948 West End London Revival (in French) by the Comedie Francaise

Opened 11 October 1948, Closed 16 October 1948 at the Cambridge Theatre

The cast included Pierre Dux as 'Alceste'.

Performed in French for a one-week straight-run, as a double-bill with Henry Becque's La Navette, by Comedie Francaise as part of a three week season from 11 to 30 October 1948.


1956 West End London Revival (in French) by the Compagnie Renaud-Barrault

Opened 14 November 1956, Closed 6 December 1956 (in repertory) at the Palace Theatre

The cast included Jean-Louis Barrault as 'Alceste' and Madeleine Renaud as 'Celimene'.

Directed by Jean-Louis Barrault.

Performed in French by the Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault Theatre Company as part of a four-week repertory season from 12 November to 8 December 1956.


1962 West End London (in French) by L'Association Francaise D'Action Artistique

Opened 26 February 1962, Closed 3 March 1962 at the Piccadilly Theatre

The cast included Jacques Francois as 'Alceste' and Annie Ducaux as 'Celimene'.

Directed by Bernard Dheran.

Performed in French for a one-week straight-run by Michael Dorfman in assocation with the L'Association Francaise D'Action Artistique as part of a five week season from 19 February to 24 March 1962.


1973 West End London Revival with Alec McCowen and Diana Rigg

Previewed 20 February 1973, Opened 22 February 1973, Closed 7 July 1973 (in repertory) at the Old Vic Theatre

The original cast featured Alec McCowen as 'Alceste', Diana Rigg as 'Celimene', Alan MacNaughtan as 'Philinte', Gawn Grainger as 'Oronte', Gillian Barge as 'Arsinoe', Jeanne Watts as 'Eliante', Jeremy Clyde as 'Clitandre', Nicholas Clay as 'Acaste', Paul Curran as 'Basque', James Hayes as 'Du Bois', and Clive Merrison as 'Official of the Academie Francaise'.

Directed by John Dexter with designs by Tanya Moiseiwitsch, lighting by Andy Phillips, music by Marc Wilkinson, and sound by Sylvia Carter.

Presented in a translation and adaptation by Tony Harrison by the National Theatre.


1981 London Revival with Tom Courtenay and Cecilia Richards

Previewed 30 June 1981, Opened 1 July 1981, Closed 1 August 1981 at the Roundhouse Theatre

The cast featured Tom Courtenay as 'Alceste', Cecilia Richards as 'Celimene', Christopher Gable as 'Philinte', Geoffrey Bateman as 'Oronte', Amanda Boxer as 'Arsinoe', Janet Ellis as 'Eliante', Tim McInnerny as 'Clitandre', Ian Hastings as 'Acaste', Nicholas Amer as 'Basque', Ivan Steward as 'Du Bois', and Philip Goodhew as 'Guard'.

Directed by Casper Wrede with designs by Malcolm Pride, lighting by Joe Davis, and sound by David Easterbrook and Colin Goddard.

Presented in a translation by Richard Wilbur for a one-month straight-run as part of a four-month Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre season which run at the Round House from 1 April through to 1 August 1981. This production was originally seen at the Royal Exchange Theatre where it previewed from 21 May 1981, opened on 25 May 1981, and closed on 27 June 1981.


1989 London Revival with William Elliott and Fiona McAlpine

Previewed 3 January 1989, Opened 4 January 1989, Closed 21 January 1989 at the Young Vic Theatre

The cast featured William Elliott as 'Alceste', Fiona McAlpine as 'Celimene', Jeremy Peters as 'Philinte', Robin Brooks as 'Oronte', Sue Dyde as 'Arsino', and Marcia Rose as 'Eliante'.

Directed by Jonathan Holloway with designs by Charlotte Humpston, lighting by Jonathan Holloway, and music by Adrian Johnston.

Presented in a new translation by Neil Bartlett by the Red Shift Theatre Company.

This production had been originally staged at the Assembly Rooms as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 1988, and subsequently at the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon, London, from 8 to 25 September 1988.


1989 London Revival with Edward Petherbridge and Sian Thomas

Previewed 26 May 1989, Opened 31 May 1989, Closed 4 November 1989 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Edward Petherbridge as 'Alceste', Sian Thomas as 'Celimene', David Horovitch as 'Philinte', Donald Pickering as 'Oronte', Sheila Ballantine as 'Arsinoe', Ingrid Craigie as 'Eliante', Brian Pettifer as 'Clitandre', Malcolm Sinclair as 'Acaste', Matthew Byam Shaw as 'Basque', Peter Gunn as 'Du Bois', and Guy Nicholls as 'Official of the Academie Francaise', with Stephen Gray and Margaret Shade.

Directed by Paul Unwin with designs by Richard Hudson, lighting by Laurence Clayton, music by Terry Davies, and sound by Freya Edwards.

Presented in a translation and adaptation by Tony Harrison by the National Theatre and The Bristol Old Vic Company. This production was originally seen at the Bristol Old Vic - previewed from 16 March 1989, opened on 22 March 1989, and closed on 8 April 1989 - which was followed by a short regional tour and then transfer to London's National Theatre.


1996 London Revival with Ken Stott and Elizabeth McGovern

Previewed 8 February 1996, Opened 13 February 1996, Closed 23 March 1996 at the Young Vic Theatre

The cast featured Ken Stott as 'Alceste', Elizabeth McGovern as 'Jennifer' (Celimene), William Osborne as 'John' (Philinte), Niall Buggy as 'Covington' (Oronte), Linda Marlowe as 'Marcia' (Arsinoe), Cathryn Bradshaw as 'Ellen' (Eliante), Richard O'Callaghan as 'Alexander' (Clitandre), Jo Stone-Fewings as 'Julian' (Acaste), George Beach as 'Messenger' / 'Simon', and Ben Davis as 'Musician'.

Directed by Lindsay Posner with designs by Joanna Parker, lighting by Simon Corder, sound by John A Leonard, and music by Paddy Cunneen.

Presented in a new version by Martin Crimp. See also the 2009 West End London Revival at the Comedy Theatre.


1998 West End London Revival with Michael Pennington and Elaine Paige

Previewed 13 March 1998, Opened 26 March 1998, Closed 7 August 1998 (in repertory) at the Piccadilly Theatre

The cast featured Michael Pennington as 'Alceste', Elaine Paige as 'Celimene', David Yelland as 'Philinte', Peter Bowles as 'Oronte', Anna Carteret as 'Arsinoe', Rebecca Saire as 'Eliante', Crispin Bonham-Carter as 'Clitandre', John Elmes as 'Acaste', Dickon Tyrrell as 'Basque', Stephen Noonan as 'Du Bois', and Stephen Noonan as 'Offficer of the Marshals of France'.

Directed by Peter Hall with sets by John Gunter, costumes by Colin Lavers and Elizabeth Waller, lighting by Mark Ridler, and sound by Matt McKenzie.

Presented in a translation by Ranjit Bolt by the Peter Hall Company.


2009 West End London Revival with Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley

Previewed 7 December 2009, Opened 17 December 2009, Closed 13 March 2010 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

The cast featured Damian Lewis as 'Alceste', Keira Knightley as 'Jennifer' (Celimene), Dominic Rowan as 'John' (Philinte), Tim McMullan as 'Covington' (Oronte), Tara Fitzgerald as 'Marcia' (Arsinoe), Kelly Price as 'Ellen' (Eliante), Nicholas Le Pevost as 'Alexander' (Clitandre), Chuk Iwuji as 'Julian' (Acaste), and James Hogg as 'Messenger' / 'Simon'.

Directed by Thea Sharrock with movement by Fin Walker, sets by Hildegard Bechtler, costumes by Amy Roberts, lighting by Peter Mumford, and sound by Ian Dickinson.

Presented in an updated version by Martin Crimp (see also the 1996 London Young Vic Theatre Revival)

A major revival of Molière's comedy The Misanthrope in London in a new version by Martin Crimp and starring Keira Knightley, Damian Lewis, Tara Fitzgerald and Dominic Rowan

Martin Crimp's new version of Molière's The Misanthrope has been transported from 17th century Paris to modern-day London where Alceste is a famous British playwright disillusioned and angry with the hypocrisy, shallowness and vanity of the contemporary world. Vowing to reject society, Alceste's plans are derailed when he falls madly in love with Jennifer. An ambitious American film star and darling of the social scene, she may prove to be his biggest challenge yet.

Keira Knightley's extensive film credits include the award-winning Atonement opposite James McAvoy, The Duchess, Pride And Prejudice and as 'Elizabeth Swann' in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. She originally established herself as a film actress in the surprise film hit Bend It Like Beckham. Damian Lewis is best known for Band Of Brothers, the Steven Spielberg's award-winning mini series. His most recent London stage credits include Pillars of the Community at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre and Five Gold Rings at the Almeida Theatre. Tara Fitzgerald's extensive credits include playing the role of 'Dr Eve Lockhart' in the BBC Television's popular drama series Waking The Dead. Her London stage credits include A Doll's House at the Donmar Warehouse and And Then There Were None at the Gielgud Theatre. Dominic Rowan's stage credit include A Voyage Around My Father at the Donmar Warehouse and transfer to Wyndham's Theatre, Happy Now? at the National Theatre and As You Like It at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. His television credits include Catwalk Dogs Lynda La Plante's Trial and Retribution, The Family Man with Trevor Eve and Hearts And Bones.

"The burning question about this latest production of Martin Crimp's mordern take on Moliere's comedy of manners is, obviously, is Keira Knightley any good? In short, yes: she's much better than her (canny) pre-first night pronouncements would have you to believe but - beautiful as she is - she doesn't command as much attention on stage as you'd hope... Damian Lewis relishes his role as self-appointed ranting outcast, delivering Crimp's clever, fluid verse with elan and delightedly toying with the post-modernism of the whole occasion. Thea Sharrock's production has the boldness and vigour that Crimp's script needs, plus an excellent sporting cast. Whether Crimp's update is built to last in the same way as Moliere's classic is doubtful but it makes for a boisterously entertaining evening." The London Metro

"Despite her ladylike looks, 24-year-old Keira Knightley is well known for having a full fruity vocabulary. Here she comfortably, if a bit quietly, brings both together in her first major stage role... Rhyme Writer Martin Crimp has taken Molière's 17th century comedy about the self-centred French court and re-written the story. Remarkably, it's still in rhyme but is now scattered with the F-word and funny asides about the BBC and Andrew Lloyd Webber... Cleverly linked to the 1600s, especially in a great closing scene, Molière will be rocking and rolling (rather than turning) in his grave." The News of the World

"One can see what appealed to Keira Knightley in Moliere's The Misanthrope, with its themes of the transience and vacuousness of society's beautiful people. I fancy the star wanted this play to say something about how she felt about the point she had reached in life... Her beautiful features, which lend themselves so perfectly to close-up shots on screen, seem suddenly diluted and diminished on stage. She does, however, have a presence on the stage and her lines are delivered with sensitivity. The real problem with this production is Martin Crimp, the achingly fashionable playwright charged with adapting and updating this classic... The romance that ensues between a man seeking greater meaning in life and a woman who epitomises meaninglessness is a comical affair in the original, but what has emerged from the other side of Crimp's word- processor looks more like an end-of-term play at a school at the bottom end of the Government's league tables." The Sunday Telegraph

The Misanthrope in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 7 December 2009, opened on 17 December 2009 and closed on 13 March 2010.