The Guardsman

Comedy by Ferenc Molnar. Disguise can be a dangerous game, especially in matters of love. A lovelorn and long suffering jealous actor in disguise seduces his own wife! A roller-coaster of fun and uncertainty will have you guessing if she'll fall for him or whether she will discover his true identity.

1978 with Diana Rigg at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

2000 with Greta Scacchi at the Albery Theatre

Ferenc Molnar's other plays include Liliom, which was the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.


London Revival 1978

Previewed 21 December 1977, Opened 3 January 1978, Closed 19 May 1978 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

Presented in an English version by Frank Marcus.

The cast featured Diana Rigg as 'Ilona', Richard Johnson as 'Nandor', Philip Stone as 'Bela', Madoline Thomas as 'Mother', Brenda Blethyn as 'Lisa', David Schofield as 'the Creditor', Diana Payan as 'the Cook', Anne Leon as 'the Usherette', and Irita Kutchmy as 'the Pianist', with Tom Durham, Peter Jolley, Robert Ralph, and Andrew Tourell.

Directed by Peter Wood, with sets by Ralph Koltai, costumes by David Walker, lighting by David Hersey, and sound by Derrick Zieba.


West End London Revival 2000

Previewed 4 October 2000, Opened 11 October 2000, Closed 28 October 2000 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

A major revival of Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman in London starring Greta Scacchi

Presented in an English version by Frank Marcus.

The cast featured Greta Scacchi as 'Ilona', Michael Pennington as 'Nandor', Nickolas Grace as 'Bela', Georgina Hale as 'Mother', Laura Macaulay as 'Lisa', Tim Faulkner as 'the Creditor', and Jackie Skarvellis as 'the Usherette'.

Directed by Janet Suzman with designs by Charles Cusick Smith, lighting by Nick Beadle, and sound Ed Brimley.

Greta Scacchi's London theatre credits include 'Yelena' in Michael Blakemore's revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1988.

Michael Pennington's London theatre credits include 'Alceste' in Peter Hall's revival of Moliere's The Misanthrope at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1998; 'Major Steve Arnold' in Harold Pinter's production of Ronald Harwood's Taking Sides at the Criterion Theatre in 1995; 'Henry' in Peter Wood's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at the Strand Theatre in 1984; 'Duke Vincentio' in Barry Kyle's revival of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Aldwych Theatre in 1979; 'Hector' in Barry Kyle's revival of William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida at the Aldwych Theatre in 1977; 'Mercutio' in Trevor Nunn's revival of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Aldwych Theatre in 1977; and 'Gerald Arbuthnot' in Malcolm Farquhar's revival of Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1967.

Nickolas Grace's London theatre credits include 'Jack' in Harold Pinter's production of Simon Gray's Life Support at the Aldwych Theatre in 1997; and 'Nicholas Beckett' in John Dove's revival of Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw at the Old Vic Theatre in 1979.

"For the play to work, it needs poise, sparkle, insolence, a lightness of touch, a sense of style. This revival directed by Janet Suzman, displays some of these qualities, but only fitfully. Part of the problem lies in an imbalance between the leading couple. What is called for, ideally, is a pair of well-matched duellists. Here, by contrast, Nandor (Michael Pennington) spends much of the time floundering around like a fool - or just like a man - while Ilona (Greta Scacchi) remains cool and unruffled. We never doubt that she is fated to have the last laugh. Within the limits that have been imposed, both actors turn in decent performances. Michael Pennington is entertaining... Greta Scacchi has charm of manner as well as striking looks... As for the supporting players, with the honourable exception of Nickolas Grace, as a dapper theatre critic, they are best passed over in silence. But they can't be altogether ignored, since some coarse acting from them at the outset gets the play off on the wrong foot, and it takes what feels like a long time to recover." The Sunday Telegraph

"Janet Suzman's production is nowhere near dark enough to do it justice. The plot hinges on an erotic enticement. On Cosi fan tutte lines, a jealous husband - an actor married to an actress - disguises himself as a guardsman and pays dashing court to his wife. She seems ready to submit to his advances, but on the brink of seduction the couple are reconciled when it turns out that - or so she declares - the wife knew him all along. It's not a play for which great claims can be made, but it could move with the sinis ter tinkle of a musical box. It has the interest of being a performance about performance, with husband and wife needing to keep the audience guessing to the end about the penetrability of disguise in a world which is wholly theatrical... What's missing is the anxiety that prompts the action and gives it an edge. The frocks again cut a dash, with Scacchi swathed in silver and in folds of caramel silk, but if you want soft furnishings, you might as well go to John Lewis." The Observer

"The coruscating awfulness of this production is not entirely Janet Suzman's fault. Frank Marcus's translation is based not on Ferenc Molnar's original Hungarian but on a German version, and what you get is a bland remake of a sad and serious psychological comedy... A famous Budapest actor is married to an equally famous actress. She is getting restless, longing for an adventure with somebody both macho and sophisticated: a guards officer, perhaps. He is desperate, and confides in their best friend, a critic, that he will impersonate the guardsman himself. He explains that, nearing middle age, he has found the woman of his life. To lose her would destroy him and he would do anything, however humiliating, to hold her. This passage, in which a man offers up his pride, identity and self-respect for his marriage, is missing in this version, which means that the play becomes an improbable light comedy. This must be why Michael Pennington turns the actor into an impish, hyperactive popinjay who thinks that the impersonation will be a great lark; and why Greta Scacchi plays the actress as a dim-witted pussycat trying unsuccessfully to pretend that she is a tigress." The Sunday Times

The Guardsman in London at the Albery Theatre previewed from 4 October 2000, opened on 11 October 2000, and closed on 28 October 2000