Following this year’s West End revival of Evita, Rice has revamped and reworked Blondel, which he originally wrote with the late Stephen Oliver in 1983. In association with the Wild Justice Company, Rice is himself producing the new version, which will have a limited season at north London’s Pleasance Theatre from 23 November to 31 December 2006 (previews from 21 November).
Set in the 12th century, the sung-through musical addresses pertinent modern issues such as celebrity, war, politics, the monarchy, race and the difficulty of getting your songs played.
In the reign of Richard the Lionheart, Blondel is an unfairly (in his view) unappreciated court musician, desperate for fame and fortune until his realisation that there are more important things in life – honesty, bravery and Fiona, the woman he loves. He’s caught up in the political crises of the time; the leader of the country has taken the nation into a dodgy war in the Middle East, his deputy is a dishonest and lecherous man who is after his job, fame and celebrity seem to be the watchwords of the day, illegal immigrants are treated badly and indiscriminate killers stalk the whole of Europe. According to publicity material, only Prince John’s tights remind us that this is the 12th century, not the 21st.
Blondel (rhymes with ‘fondle’) premiered at the Theatre Royal Bath in September 1983 and then had a run in Manchester before opening in London at the Old Vic in November 1983. In January 1984, it transferred to the West End’s Aldwych Theatre, where it ran until September of that year. The original cast featured Paul Nicholas in the title role, and other musical stars including David Burt, Simon Bowman, Stephen Tate and Maria Friedman.
Tim Rice is collaborating with director Patrick Wilde (whose credits include This Life, As If, Monarch of the Glen and Get Real on TV) to rework Blondel for a smaller, ensemble company at the Pleasance. No casting has yet been announced.
- by Caroline Ansdell