Madame Melville

Previewed 10 October 2000, Opened 18 October 2000, Closed 11 March 2001 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London

Richard Nelson's play Madame Melville in London starring Macaulay Culkin.

Set in Paris in 1966, the story of a fifteen year old American schoolboy Carl and his teacher Madame Melville who teaches him enduring - and fondly remembered - lessons in art, life, sex, and love.

The cast features Macaulay Culkin as 'Carl' and the present day narrator, with Irene Jacob as 'Madame Melville', and Madeleine Potter as 'Ruth'.

Directed by Richard Nelson with sets by Thomas Lynch, costumes by Fotini Dimou, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Scott Myers.

Richard Nelson won the 2000 Olivier Award for 'Best New Play' for Goodnight Children Everywhere which was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Public previews where originally due to start on Saturday 7 October, but the first five previews where cancelled in mid-September. The opening first night remained unchanged on Wednesday 18 October 2000.

"Madame Melville has one thing going for it. Its name is Irene Jacob - star of several European 'art' films - and, boy, is she beautiful. We are talking real French coffee-sipping sex appeal here - not the hairsprayed glamour of the recent crop of American actresses in the West End. It's a tonic just watching her skip around the stage barefooted with that je ne sais quoi... Richard Nelson's wafter-thin play comes over as something of a middle-aged seduction fantasy. A young lad introduced to wine, cigarettes and even the Kama Sutra by a gorgeous Parisian art teacher. Dream on!. Culkin, in his sweet but stilted way, never really suggests any real loss of virginity in all its excitement and terror. It's frankly very hard to imagine him being tucked up with anything in bed except cocoa and a comic. But Madame Melville effectively holes him up in her flat, deceiving his parents... The affair - the sex is described - is recollected in sadness, acted out in innocence, and it makes for a curiously old-fashioned play. But what the show lacks in dramatic punch it makes up for in sheer feminine radiance. That's a real compensation, if mostly for the chaps." The Daily Express

"Many of the people who are going to buy tickets for Madame Melville will obviously be attracted in the first instance by the presence of Macaulay Culkin - only 20, but a major Hollywood name ever since he made Home Alone 10 years ago. Unlike some film stars who have taken to the West End stage, Culkin won't let them down. But if there is any justice, audiences are going to be equally impressed by his fellow-players, and by the author, Richard Nelson, who is also the director. This is one of those evenings in the theatre that truly takes off... Leaving larger issues aside, what Richard Nelson actually gives us is a study which is tender without being (except very occasionally) sentimental, which makes due allowance for the mysteries and uncertainties of attraction, and which charts fluctuating emotional pressures with barometric finesse... There is a delicacy about the whole play which has nothing to do with squeamishness, and everything to do with maturity and depth. And nowhere does Nelson seem more grown-up than in his humour. The comedy that ripples through the evening is rueful, witty and unforced. Culkin captures not only the awkwardness and defensiveness of adolescence, but also the impenetrability which may begin as shyness but can also serve as a source of strength. My only complaint is that he is sometimes hard to hear. And my only complaint about Irene Jacob's Claudie is that she is too attractive for the part; in other respects, she is perfect, at once touchingly vulnerable and fully in command... A fine play, as subtle as it is satisfying." The Sunday Telegraph

"An abysmal, cringe-making new play by the American playwright Richard Nelson. It stars Macaulay Culkin as a 15-year-old seduced by his flirty thirty-something literature teacher in Paris in the Sixties. A good actor and a less inept director with even the smallest understanding of women might have made this plausible. Under Nelson's direction, Culkin's Carl comes across as an impossibly shy, gauche, gormless, confused, bemused innocent with a negative testosterone count. Walking appears to be an agony of self-consciousness. He may think he's acting but it looks to me remarkably like Culkin playing Culkin and, believe me, not even the most desperate sex-starved woman in the world would climb astride this baby unless it was an act of charity, out of sheer perversity or under pain of death. Madame Melville does it not once, but twice (mercifully out of sight)... This is pure male fantasy and it is as embarrassing as it is pathetic. Tedious references to Proust, Bonnard and Mozart merely add to the misguided and pretentious tone. The excellent Madeleine Potter as the girl who has to share her (sexually transmitted) crabs with the audience and the outstanding French actress Irene Jacob, responsible for Carl's ludicrous sentimental education, deserve better." The Mail on Sunday

Madame Melville in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 10 October 2000, opened on 18 October 2000, and closed on 11 March 2001