The new production will have a limited season from 7 July to 28 August 2010 (previews from 26 June) at the West End’s Comedy Theatre – currently home to Martin Crimp’s modern version of Moliere’s The Misanthrope starring Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley - prior to an immediate transfer to Broadway (to a Shubert Theatre to be announced shortly), where exact dates are still to be confirmed.
La Bête is billed as “a comic tour de force” about Elomire (Pierce), a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theatre, and Valere (Rylance), a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess (Lumley) 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.
Hirson’s play, written in iambic pentameter, had only a brief run when it premiered on Broadway in 1991, but was a subsequent success in the West End where the original production starred Alan Cumming and won an Olivier for Best New Comedy.
Broadway star David Hyde Pierce, who makes his West End debut in La Bête, won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Curtains and originated the role of Brave Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Spamalot. His other theatre credits Off-Broadway and elsewhere in the US include Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, The Seagull, Tartuffe, The Cherry Orchard, That's it Folks!, The Author's Voice and Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. He won four Emmy Awards for long-running American sitcom Frasier, and his other screen credits include the films Bright Lights, Big City, Crossing Delancey, Sleepless in Seattle, Wolf, Nixon, Down With Love and A Bug's Life.
Best known to British TV fans for Absolutely Fabulous (pictured as hard-drinking, chain-smoking Patsy) and The New Avengers, Joanna Lumley’s previous stage credits include The End of Me Old Cigar, Private Lives, Noël and Gertie, Blithe Spirt, An Ideal Husband and The Letter, her last London stage appearance, at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1995. She returned to the stage in 2006 to star in Jonathan Miller’s Sheffield Crucible production of The Cherry Orchard. La Bête will mark her Broadway debut.
Mark Rylance is currently wowing audiences at the Apollo Theatre in the West End transfer of Jez Butterworth’s multi award-winning Jerusalem, for which he’s already won Best Actor gongs at the Evening Standard and Critics Circle awards, was nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Award and is in the running for an Olivier. He won a Tony Award for the Broadway transfer of Boeing Boeing, which was also directed by Matthew Warchus. His other stage credits include Endgame and Much Ado About Nothing in the West End and, at Shakespeare’s Globe during his time there as the founding artistic director, Henry V, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night. Rylance’s screen credits include The Other Boleyn Girl, Prospero’s Books and The Government Inspector, for which he won a BAFTA Best Actor for playing David Kelly.
La Bête is produced in London and New York by Sonia Friedman Productions and Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Robert Bartner and Roy Furman, is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Claire van Kampen and sound by Simon Baker. Further casting will be announced shortly.