La BÍte

Comedy by David Hirson. A comic tour de force about Elomire (an anagram for Moliere), a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theatre, and Valere, a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle Prince decides she's grown weary of Elomire's royal theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown for the ages. For the 2010 West End Premiere, the gender of the Prince was changed to Princess.

Original London Production 1992 with Alan Cumming and Jeremy Northam

Original West End London Production 2010 with Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce

Original London Production 1992 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

Previewed 30 January 1992, Opened 5 February 1992, Closed 14 March 1992 at the Hammersmith Lyric Theatre

The cast featured Alan Cumming as 'Valere', Jeremy Northam as 'Elomire', and Timothy Walker as 'Prince', with Steven Beard as 'Rene du Parc', Sarah Crowden as 'Dorine', Holly Felton as 'Catherine de Brie', Roslaind Knight as 'Madeleine Bejart', John Rogan as 'Bejart', Linda Spurrier as 'Marquise Therese du Parc', Simon Treves as 'de Brie', Constance Byrne, Charles Grant, David Lemkin, and Sukie Smith.

Directed by Richard Jones, with designs by Richard Hudson, and lighting by Scott Zielinski, based on the original by Jennifer Tipton.

Originally seen on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre - previewed from 29 January 1991, oopened on 10 February 1991, and closed on 2 March 1991 - where the production flopped, it was re-staged by the same creative at London's Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, completely re-cast, with the exception of Holly Felton who played 'Catherine de Brie'.

Original West End London Production 2010 at the Comedy Theatre

Previewed 28 June 2010, Opened 7 July 2010, Closed 4 September 2010 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

A major revival of David Hirson's award-winning comedy La Bete in London starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley

The cast featured Mark Rylance as 'Valere', David Hyde Pierce as 'Elomire', and Joanna Lumley as 'Princess', with Robert Lonsdale as 'Rene du Parc', Greta Lee as 'Dorine', Liza Sadovy as 'Catherine De Brie', Sally Wingert as 'Madeleine Bejart', Stephen Ouimette as 'Bejart', Lisa Joyce as 'Marquise-Therese Du Parc', and Michael Milligan as 'de Brie'.

Directed by Matthew Warchus, with designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Claire van Kampen, and sound by Simon Baker.

Following this West End run, this production will transfer to New York's Music Box Theatre on Broadway.

Recently Mark Rylance played 'Robert' in the comedy Boeing-Boeing both in the West End and on Broadway for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. His other London theatre credits include 'Johnny 'Rooster' Byron' in Ian Rickson's production of Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem at the Royal Court Theatre in 2009, and transfer to the Apollo Theatre in 2010; 'Hamm' in Simon McBurney's revival of Samuel Beckett's Endgame at the Duchess Theatre 2009; 'Robert' in Matthew Warchus' revival of Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2007; alternating as 'Austin'/'Lee' in Matthew Warchus' revival of Sam Shepard's True West at the Donmar Warehouse in 1994; 'Romeo' in Terry Hands' revival of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Barbican Pit Theatre in 1990; 'Lucentio' in Barry Kyle's William Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Barbican Theatre in 1983; and 'Damis' in Bill Alexander's revival of Moliere's Tartuffe at the Barbican Pit Theatre in 1983. He was the Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre where he appeared in many productions including 'Duke Vincentio' in Jonathan Dove's revival of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2004 and 2005; 'Olivia' in Tim Carroll's revival of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2002 and 2003; and 'Cleopatra' in Giles Block's revival of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 1999. His film and television work includes The Other Boleyn Girl, Prospero's Books and The Government Inspector for which he won the BAFTA Best Actor Award for his role as 'David Kelly'.

On Broadway David Hyde Pierce starred in Curtains, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, and he originated the role of 'Brave Sir Robin' in Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway. David Hyde Pierce is best known for his performance as 'Dr Niles Crane' in the multi award-winning American sitcom Frasier, it was for this role that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for eleven consecutive years and winning four times in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004. This production marks his West End debut.

Joanna Lumley is best known for playing 'Patsy Stone' in the award-winning BBC television series, Absolutely Fabulous and as 'Purdy' in The New Avengers. Her London stage credits include 'Julie' in Alan Stanford's 'staged-reading' of Harold Pinter's Celebration at the Albery Theatre in 2005; 'Leslie Crosbie' in Neil Bartlett's revival of William Somerset Maugham's The Letter at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith in 1995; and 'Elvira Condomine' in Peter Farago's revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1987.

"With the line-up that boasts a national treasure (Joanna Lumley), our finest comic actor (Mark Rylance) and an American TV superstar (David Hyde Pierce), it's no wonder that La Bete was this summer's hottest ticket and is already bound for Broadway. Big mistake. Neither Matthew Warchus' handsome production nor a crack cast can make David Hirson's sterile 1999 play into something special. Line by line or, rather, rhyming couplet by rhyming couplet (the piece is mock-Moliere and set in the 17th Century), the writing can be dazzling... Rylance, that most chameleon of actors, appears to have grown a foot and lost a stone since his recent spellbinding performance in Jerusalem. Now he resembles a 17th Century Sir Les Patterson, whose false teeth he appears to have borrowed... He's disgustingly, deliriously funny and you can't take your eyes off him. Poor old Hyde Pierce's Elomire is wretchedly upstaged in a role with nothing like as much verbal firepower. Ms Lumley prances about in pantaloons and scarlet wig looking like an ancient Alice in Wonderland and sounding posher than the Queen. With no drama and too many words, Hirson's would-be souffle-like debate about the decline of culture in a society where 'mediocrity is bound to thrive /while excellence must struggle to survive' falls as flat as a pancake." The Mail on Sunday

"Written for Broadway in 1991, set in a French court in 1654, entirely in rhyming couplets, it defies categorisation. You are forced to laugh all through and then confront a bleak unresolved ending to the central question. The bÍte of the title is the beast in us which triumphs when we laugh at deep concepts. Maybe it wins... Mark Rylance, of course, shines. Who else could hold us, hysterical yet horrified, for the first half of David Hirson's headlong play as he preens and digresses, a compulsive deluded entertainer rebuilding the very language... It's grown-up panto, it's clever, it's quite deep, it could not be better done. You may hate it, but you'll never see anything quite like it again." The Times

La Bete in London at the Comedy Theatre previewed from 28 June 2010, opened on 7 July 2010 and closed on 4 September 2010.