Previously billed as Beau Brummel, the play from the Rat in the Skull author arrived in the West End after a regional tour. It stars Peter Bowles as Beau Brummel and Richard McCabe as his valet, Austin.
Brummel was a real-life personality, a wit and dandy credited with civilising society at the turn of the 18th century. Hutchinson's play, described as "a Regency version of The Dresser", concerns the waning years of Brummel's life and his relationship with his valet.
Once the epitome of elegance, the man who taught a generation of Englishmen how to dress has been booted out of the country for calling the Prince Regent fat and losing his fortune (several times over) at cards. He's now holed up in a convent in Calais, shabbily dressed and apparently mad, with only Austin as a witness. And still he seems more interested in cuffs, collars and creases than in matters of life and death.
Bowles is a stage veteran whose many credits include Sleuth, Hedda Gabler, The Entertainer and, for the Peter Hall repertory company, Separate Tables, School for Wives and Major Barbara. He's familiar to television audiences through his roles in To the Manor Born, Only When I Laugh and Perfect Scoundrels. McCabe has performed regularly at the National and the RSC, where he's an associate artist.
The Beau is a Theatre Royal Bath production, directed by Caroline Hunt and designed by Ashley Martin-Davis with lighting by Paul Pyant.
The next production scheduled for the Haymarket is The Royal Family starring Judi Dench and directed by Peter Hall. The 1920s comedy, inspired by the real-life Barrymores, America's most famous theatrical clan, is due to open on 1 November, following previews from 24 October 2001.
- by Terri Paddock