Jean Anouilh’s 1959 play revolves around the medieval relationship between Thomas à Becket and King Henry II. The one-time friends and hell-raisers fell out when, after the King appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket began to take his religious calling quite seriously, creating a power struggle between Church and State. Henry’s plea for someone to rid him of “this turbulent priest” resulted in four of his knights assassinating Becket at Canterbury cathedral on 29 December 1170. Three years later, Becket was canonised.
The 1960 Broadway premiere of Becket starred Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn as Becket and Henry while, in the 1964 screen version, the parts were played by Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. The play was last revived in London, also at the Haymarket, 13 years ago with Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay.
In Frederic and Raphael’s new adaptation, Jasper Britton will play the monarch opposite Scott’s clergyman. Earlier this year, Britton starred in the West End transfer of the RSC’s Whatsonstage.com Award-winning pairing of The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed. His other stage credits include Japes, Bedroom Farce, Macbeth, Money, Summerfolk, Two Noble Kinsmen and The Tempest.
Scott was last seen on the London stage in the Donmar Warehouse’s 2000 premiere of To the Green Fields Beyond. He’s best known for his films such as Enigma, Mission Impossible II, Ripley’s Game, Regeneration, Ever After, Twin Town and This Year’s Love.
The production is directed by John Caird (Humble Boy, What the Night Is For, Rattle of a Simple Man) and designed by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, with lighting by Peter Mumford and historic consultation from Alison Weir. It’s produced by Kim Poster for Stanhope Productions.
Currently at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, the screen-to-stage adaptation of romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, now starring Molly Ringwald and Michael Landes, will finish its seven month run on 4 September 2004 (See Today’s Other News).
- by Terri Paddock