My view of this play lay somewhere between the two extremes - Cassox's "what on earth is this rubbish doing in the West End?" and Joe Spiteri's "A brilliant night at the theatre". Isn't that the great thing though about the theatre and why we keep coming back, even when we're suckers for punishment! I loved watching and listening to Rylance's virtuoso performance - no one could look particularly good on that stage against his tour de force except, perhaps, Stephen Ouimette who came off the best last night, but then he is a supreme stage performer. Hyde Pierce had a good stab at it and to a greater degree got away with it unlike Ms Lumley who stood out like a sore thumb and upset the balance to such a degree that even her fellow actors looked aghast at her delivery. One of my companions nodded off half way through and another decided it was the worst thing he'd seen in years yet I rather enjoyed it. I think it will work in NYC after all Geoffrey Rush had a big hit there recently with Exit The King and I hated that! So there we are? Last night I sat well back from the stage as I didn't want to pay too much but even then my seat cost fifty pounds - YES, FIFTY BLOODY QUID! The seats in the row in front of me were £70! and according to Cassox, below, some were priced at £90.......that's outrageous! Perhaps we all should have boycotted it? Maybe then the producer, Sonia Friendman, would have had to think again about charging such outrageously exorbitant prices? - rds
12 Aug 10
Rhyming couplets are usually my bete noir so it is a measure of how successfully Matthew Warchus has naturalised David Hirson's text that the script does not feel forced or srtificial with none of the unnatural emphases that befell The Misanthrope. The play itself is not really up to much: it starts off promisingly as a very funny confrontation between the high art principles of Elomire and the populist drivel of the cretinous Valere, but then descends into a failed attempt at something more serious. What makes La Bete so memorable are the performances of an Anglo-American cast (far better integrated than the Bridge Project) and in particular the leads. I've never quite understood the fuss about Joanna Lumley and she is no more than adequate but David Hyde Pierce is very good indeed as Elomire, even if you never quite forget that you're watching Niles Crane in a long wig. Mark Rylance though is a force of nature, completely submerging himself into another remarkable performance. His virtually unstoppable 25 minute near-monologue is quite astonishing, a feat of remarkable memory as well as bravura acting. Rylance has created another memorable character to set alongside Rooster Byron and Ham and will surely feature in the award lists on both sides of the Atlantic. - David Baxter
05 Aug 10
What on earth is this rubbish doing in the west end? This is a contender, quite seriously, for one of the worst plays ever written. Of course it will have it's admirers, These academic curiosities often do. It try's to be the very thing that it both hates and admires simultaneously, That commercialism and art cannot exist simultaneously. Unfortunately it fails on both counts (or is that four? Who cares?) and we are subjected to 1hour and 45 mins (without interval) of excruciating tedium. Not even Mark Rylance (putting in an admirable performance a bit like a more special and objectionable Jonny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean) can save it, even if his 30 min (yes 30 MIN) monologue at the top of the show is very funny. The point of David Hyde Pierce is lost. Why such an actor would agree to be in a play where he just mopes about the stage silently not really saying anything and forgetting to do acting and be the 'star' vehicle, frys my brain. Jo Lum, bless her, cant act, or rather she can act 'ok' but when placed against Rylance, just looks a bit amateur.
The cast perform in American accents (apart from Jo Lum... bless) which hints at a 'made for broadway' audience, who i cant quite work out will like it or not. It's a bit special and incomprehensible, especially if you keep falling asleep. A bit like these very sentences. Avoid at all costs, which at £90 a ticket wont be difficult.
20 Jul 10
Mark Rylance never fails to mesmerize! He is the best stage actor this country has without doubt. Superb performances by the whole cast, but Rylance steals the show - as with Jerusalem, Boeing and every piece of Shakespeare he has ever acted in. I simply must see this again! - Luci Sims
13 Jul 10
Producer Sonia Friedman must still be pinching herself to check she’s not dreaming putting together a show with a national treasure (Joanna Lumley), a major US TV star (Frasier’s Niles – David Hyde Pierce) and the hottest stage actor of the moment (Mark Rylance). Add in a young director who can (almost) do no wrong, Matthew Warchus, and a great designer like Mark Thompson and you’re guaranteed to sell out 10 weeks in London followed by the same in New York, whatever the reviews. Not very prolific playwright David Hirson must think he’s in the middle of a lifetime of Christmases with a guaranteed commercial success for his mediocre verse play which won awards but made no money 18 years ago.
Such is the world of theatre.....
This is not a great play, it’s an OK play which is often funny but very uneven and often too glib for its own good. When it sparkles, it SPARKLES but there are many moments when it doesn’t. The unevenness comes from one role which overpowers all others and dialogue which goes from hysterical to dull and back many times during the uninterrupted 100 minutes. So you’re thinking ’he hated it then’ – well, no, I enjoyed myself! Anthony Ward’s extraordinary library has three walls of books that go much higher than most of the audience can see – trust me, I was in the front row and I saw how high it goes (I also saw where the wigs met the foreheads and Mark Rylance’s very knobbly knees!). Rylance is again astonishing, squeezing many many more laughs out of the dialogue than you’d get if you read it. He eats, drinks, farts, dances, falls…..it’s another very physical creation that you know no-one else could pull off. Playing ‘straight man’ to this must be really tough, but David Hyde Pierce pulls that off too, as does the other ‘straight man’ Stephen Ouimette. Joanna Lumley’s role is important but small, but her verse speaking is impeccable, she looks regal and hey, it’s just great to see her on stage again. You have to feel sorry for the remaining six actors who will have to watch this masterclass eight times a week for 20 weeks, spending most of the time in the wings with their knitting and suduko, but they shared the cheers in the very unstarry curtain call. It won’t change your life, and the world won’t end if you don’t go, but there’s much to enjoy and its 100 minutes of fun with wigs and books. - Gareth James
10 Jul 10
Rylance was, as usual, fascinating and amazing to watch. Hyde-Pierce was good. Lumley was... well, herself, the part was pretty crap though.
The play itself is a real turkey, it goes nowhere and says nothing that isn't up-itself or platitudinous (or both), without Rylance in it I would have walked out after an hour (as in fact several people did, the night I saw it) and saved myself the sheer tedium of the last half. - mym
09 Jul 10
A brilliant night at the theatre. The play was funny and excellent set. Everyone was good and special merit to Joanna Lumley (a small but effective role) and David Hyde Pierce BUT the night was for Mark Rylance--his acting and timing is just brilliant and how does he remember so many words and have loved his performances the last times I have seen him on stage in Jerusalem and Boeing-Boeing. A truly superb actor and joy to watch. Good luck to them for the New York opening later this year. A great night out. - Joe Spiteri
08 Jul 10
Agree about Mark Rylance, one of the best actors I have seen on stage. Thought David Hyde Price was good as was Joanna Lumley but it,s true kept thinking of Patsy. Overall though it's well worth going to see and is very funny. - Jean Shelton
06 Jul 10
Wow, what a performance by Mark Rylance. An absolute tour de force. Swept Niles and Patsy away - and that was kind of the problem - the shadow of Niles and Patsy loomed large over David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley. Not their fault at all, mind. Anyhow a fantastic evening. - Simon Martin
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