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Thursday, 2 September 2010

La Bete at The Comedy Theatre

September brings many new shows to London’s West End stages, and unfortunately waves goodbye to some great theatre runs too.

David Hirson’s play La Bete is coming to the end of its time at the Comedy Theatre in Piccadilly. Written in iambic pentameter, the Moliere-inspired story, set in 17th Century France explores the creative artist in the marketplace.

Matthew Warchus directs this witty play that was first seen in London in a season at the Lyric Hammersmith in the spring of 1992. This production will soon be transferring to Broadway and has an all star cast: Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley.

Rylance, who is arguably the best stage actor of our time, plays the mouthy Valere and is quite astounding. His superb acting makes good use of Hirson’s relentless rhymes. With no interval it is Rylance’s presence that dominates most of the 100 minute play. His first monologue lasts approximately 45 minutes with no interruptions and is spoken at such speed that he barely has time to come up for air. The whole theatre was audibly in hysterics.

David Hyde Pierce, best known for his performance as Dr Niles Crane in popular American sitcom, Frasier makes his West End debut in La Bete, not that you can tell – he is natural and convincing as the grumpy Elomire. The Princess is played by ‘Ab Fab’ star Joanna Lumley who regally marches across the stage interacting with the two men wonderfully. Lumley looks magnificent and much younger than her 64 years, she is one actress that has definitely not lost her sparkle.

La Bete is a strange play, but although I struggled to understand it at times I found myself totally enthralled throughout, and would happily watch these three actors all night.

La Bete continues until 4 September, 2010.

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