First presented in the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre in July 1996, directed by Declan Donnellan, the musical initially opened to poor reviews, prompting the writing partnership behind Miss Saigon and Les Miserables to drastically revise the material before reopening, after a three-week hiatus, in November 1996 to more favourable notices and a run of more than 700 performances. It went on to win the 1997 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The show underwent further revisions prior to a UK tour in December 1998, when several new songs were added.
In the predominantly sung-through musical, young French peasant Martin Guerre reluctantly marries Bertrande de Rols, the daughter of a well-off family. After failing to consummate his marriage, Guerre is mercilessly taunted about his masculinity and abruptly disappears to war. Five years later, a man claiming to be Martin Guerre returns. His wife is overjoyed. At first the villagers accept him, but soon doubts begin to arise over the true identity of the returning Guerre.