LA BETE: Review Roundup

By: Jul. 08, 2010
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Mark Rylance (Valere), David Hyde Pierce (Elomire) and Joanna Lumley (The Princess) are joined by Stephen Ouimette (Bejart), Lisa Joyce (Marquise-Therese Du Parc), Greta Lee (Dorine), Robert Lonsdale (Rene Du Parc), Michael Milligan (De Brie), Liza Sadovy (Catherine De Brie) and Sally Wingert (Madeleine Bejart) in Matthew Warchus' production of David Hirson's La Bête.

La Bête, which previews from 26 June at the Comedy Theatre, playing until 4 September, with press night on 7 July, will immediately transfer to Broadway following its West End run. La Bête is produced in London and New York by Sonia Friedman Productions & Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Robert G. Bartner/Norman Tulchin, Bob Boyett/Tim Levy, Roy Furman and Bud Martin.

When The Princess (Joanna Lumley) invites street clown Valere (Mark Rylance) to inject some bawdy fun and mischief into her staid acting troupe, she anticipates an exciting creative combination. But the troupe's leader, Elomire (David Hyde Pierce), is an elitist and fervent lover of high-brow theatre who clashes with Valere - a gaudy comic and a fervent lover of ... well, himself. So begins a gloriously witty and wildly hilarious battle of art and egos.


Brian Logan, The Independent: Rylance plays the clown, just as he did under the same director, Matthew Warchus, in Boeing Boeing three years ago. His character, Valere, is a preening buffoon, deeply in love with himself and the charming impression he thinks he's making. He's also a force of nature, with a domineering, motor-mouth charisma Rylance admits will be "wonderful" to play - even if "to release that side of yourself into daylight is a little shocking".

Claire Allfree, Metro: Perhaps most discomfitingly, in the space of an hour Hyde Pierce barely smiles once. If his face wasn't largely the same, it would be hard to believe that Niles Crane once sprang from the same body. Hyde Pierce is in town for La Bête, David Hirson's 1992 Molière-style comedy written in rhyming couplets. The play reunites Mark Rylance with Boeing-Boeing director Matthew Warchus, and Hyde Pierce admits it was the chance to work opposite Rylance that swung it for him.

Dan Wooller, Photos, whatsonstage.comMatthew Warchus' starry revival of David Hirson's Moliere-inspired 1991 comedy La Bete opened last night at the West End's Comedy Theatre (7 July 2010, previews from 26 June). Starring Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce and West End man-of-the-moment Mark Rylance, it continues for a limited season to 4 September 2010 prior to an immediate Broadway transfer.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: I'll say this much: David Hirson's piece of Broadway-originating, pastiche Molière seems less smugly self-admiring than it did on its first appearance in 1992. That may be because Hirson now gives the action an uninterrupted flow; it may be because Mark Rylance virtuosically adorns the current cast; but I suspect the real change stems from director Matthew Warchus, who has discovered a hidden tension in what at first seemed a dramatically inert piece.

Michael Coveney, The Independent: For about one hour of its length, the show is enjoyable because it's so intriguing. A magnificently lit banquet is in progress on the Languedoc estate of the princess. The stage then literally deliquesces in Mark Thompson's design into a grand library where battle is joined between the favoured playwright, Elomire (ie Molière) and the upstart vaudevillian Valère, played with Ken Dodd comedy teeth by Mark Rylance, spitting on every line and chomping on his own integrity.

Paul Callan, The play is a tour de force for Mark Rylance's talents. He scales the heights of comedy - quite literally at times - when he clambers high over the scenery, particularly in the 20-minute monologue at the play's beginning. Rylance catches perfectly the rhythms, even the beat David Hirson had injected into the poetry. It is as though this actor, possibly the country's greatest, became the words himself like some human metronome.

Jill Lawless, Associated Press: Its chief delight is a bravura performance by Rylance, one of the most compelling stage actors on either side of the Atlantic. He plays Valere, a fairground performer and creator of vulgar entertainment who is invited by a royal patron to work alongside the fastidious, highbrow writer Elomire (Hyde Pierce). Rylance's Valere is an anarchic monster, equally compelling and repulsive, who spits, burps, breaks wind and unleashes a torrent of words on the stunned Elomire.

Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph: ...this is a play that begins brilliantly only to turn dismally flat as it runs out of comic invention and momentum. The first 35 minutes are blissfully funny as Rylance comes on as the pretentious entertainer and delivers an extraordinarily long monologue, extolling his own genius...

Libby Purves, The Times: It's a grown-up panto, it's clever, it's quite deep, it could not be better done. You may hate it, but you'll never see anything quite like it again.


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