The play tells a sinister story of class, sex and power, with a wily servant (Barrett) who turns the table on his self-indulgent master (Tony). As Barrett inveigles his way deeper into the household, Tony’s friends begin to question how indispensable the employee has become and just what services are being provided. With a private income and an appetite for indulgence, how easily can a young man be destroyed?
The Servant was made in a film in 1963, with a screenplay by Harold Pinter and famously starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. Neil Bartlett’s adaptation is from Maugham’s original novella and the subsequent stage play of 1958. Bartlett’s production stars Jack Davenport as Tony, rich, indolent and handsome, with Michael Feast as Barrett, the servant employed to keep house on Tony’s return from abroad. They are joined in the cast by Emma Amos and Crispin Letts.
Davenport is best known to TV audiences as Miles from the BBC’s This Life as well as the recent comedy series Coupling. His film credits include The Talented Mr Ripley and Fierce Creatures.
Stage veteran Feast’s many credits include The Cherry Orchard, with Prunella Scales, on tour; Faust I and II, Murder in the Cathedral and Measure for Measure with the Royal Shakespeare Company; The Forest, American Buffalo and No Man’s Land at the National; and, most recently, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s After Darwin at the Hampstead Theatre and Jeffrey Archer’s The Accused on tour and at the Haymarket.
Neil Bartlett’s last show at the Lyric Hammersmith was 1999’s The Dispute, which won the Time Out Award for best production in the West End as well as the TMA Award for Best Touring Production. Last year, Bartlett was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The Servant is designed by Rae Smith, with lighting by Paule Constable. It is produced by Matthew Byam Shaw.
- by Terri Paddock