The Countess

Previewed 2 June 2005, Opened 7 June 2005, Closed 9 July 2005 at the Criterion Theatre in London

The visionary critic, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, and a sexual scandal that rocked Victorian society. In 1853 the celebrated art critic John Ruskin, his wife Effie, and the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais depart in high spirits for the Scottish Highlands. When they return four months later, London is already beginning to whisper of the woman one man calls mad, and the other... The Countess.

Gregory Murphy's sumptuous and passionate new drama The Countess is based on one of the most notorious scandals of the Victorian age. The Countess is Gregory Murphy's first play. It was critically acclaimed in New York, where it ran for 634 performances.

The cast features Nick Moran as 'John Ruskin' and Alison Pargeter as his wife 'Effie' with Damian O'Hare as 'Millais', Gerald Harper as 'Mr Ruskin', Jean Boht as 'Mrs Ruskin' and Linda Thorson as 'Lady Elizabeth Eastlake'.

Directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser who also directed the acclaimed New York production, with sets by Jason Denvir, costumes by Chris Lione, lighting by Doug Filomenia, music by Dewey Dellay, and sound by Dan Last.

"The Countess, by the American playwright Gregory Murphy, at the Criterion, is a wonderful, evocative piece of theatre dealing with the events leading up to the annulment of the artist and critic John Ruskin's marriage. As Ruskin's cruelly neglected wife, Effie, Alison Pargeter is extraordinarily moving, and Nick Moran makes a fine job of the frigid, repressed and hopelessly aesthetic artist." The Sunday Telegraph

"The Countess remains a difficult tale to tell. As in the real-life affair of Millais and Effie - which led to a long and happy marriage that the dramatist has decided is way beyond his remit - so much is going on just below the surface that we end up forever picking up on the ends of conversations and halfoverheard clues... Producer and director Ludovicka Villar-Hauser, who has been the driving force behind this production from the very outset, manages to keep the staging moving swiftly over some of its clunkier transitions from art history to sexual drama. In the crucial central trio Nick Moran, Alison Pargeter and Damian O'Hare each moves smoothly and convincingly into costume drama from the more cutting-edge contemporary film and television work in which they have recently made their names. You may never again see a Millais painting from quite the same perspective." The Daily Express

"Gregory Murphy attempts to examine the famous Pre-Raphaelite love triangle between the painter and writer John Ruskin, his wife Effie Gray and the precociously brilliant artist John Everett Millais, who became her husband following the annulment of the Ruskins' marriage and nicknamed her Effie the Countess. Rumour has it that the Ruskins' marriage was unconsummated following Ruskin's horror at the sight of his wife's pubic hair on their wedding night. He'd been expecting the smooth perfection of a marble sculpture. If you didn't know this before seeing this blow-your-brains-out-boring piece, even afterwards you'll be as ignorant as poor little Effie, whose husband convinced her she had some appalling disease. A play about repressive Victorian England that represses such salient facts is an irony that appears to have gone unnoticed by producer-director Ludovica Villar-Hauser. She plonks a cast of desperados, including Gerald Harper as Ruskin's wooden father, Nick Moran as the dried-up controlling Ruskin, and Jean Boht as his monstrous mama, on a risible stage of drenched Scottish cliffs, then abandons them in a rather splendid London library. Only Alison Pargeter's touching Effie and Damian O'Hare's passionate Millais survive with their dignity intact. I suspect their efforts will not be required for long." The Mail on Sunday

The Countess in London at the Criterion Theatre previewed from 2 June 2005, opened on 7 June 2005, and closed on 9 July 2005.