La Bete – Reviews Round-up

Reviews have been largely positive but tinged with disappointment for Matthew Warchus’s new production of David Hirson’s 1991 play La Bete at the Comedy Theatre in London.

The much anticipated revival features an all-star cast including US theatre and TV star David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), and national treasure Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous). However, it was recent Olivier Award winner Mark Rylance (Jerusalem) who stole the show for the critics with his energetic and hilarious performance.

The play is directed by acclaimed, Tony award winning director Matthew Warchus and will run at the Comedy Theatre for a short season until 28 August before moving straight to Broadway.

La Bete at the Comedy Theatre in London

The Guardian, Michael Billington

“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.”

The Times, Libby Purves
“We’ve waited for this one, in wondering hope.”
“Rylance, of course, shines. Who else could hold us, hysterical yet horrified, for the first half of David Hirson’s headlong play as he preens and digresses, a compulsive deluded entertainer rebuilding the very language.”
“It’s 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.”

Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer
“For this is a play which begins brilliantly only to turn dismally flat as it runs out of comic invention and momentum.”
“Rylance brings this egotistical monster to wonderful comic life… this is high definition comic acting of an exceptional order, bursting with grotesque detail and energy, while also proving unexpectedly endearing.”
“Poor David Hyde Pierce wears the doleful expression of a leading actor who has belatedly realised that his role is almost non-existent.”
“Initially promising, it becomes so self-regarding and ultimately arid that our initially joyous laughter dies in the throat.”

The Independent, Michael Coveney

“Matthew Warchus’s colourfully inflated, Broadway-bound revival.”
“For about one hour, the show is enjoyable because it’s so intriguing… but the play runs badly out of steam in the last 45 minutes, which seem to go on forever.”
“But Rylance makes a virtuoso triumph of his uninterrupted 40-minute monologue, despite the lack of stage vivacity around him.”
“… a play that promises much more than it delivers and ends up curling into a cul-de-sac of self-referential platitudes.”

The Evening Standard, Henry Hitchings

“The moment [Mark Rylance] appears, drunkenly spluttering through a mouthful of melon, Rylance commands rapt attention.”
“The play doesn’t sustain its initial bravura, though, and for all the inventiveness of Matthew Warchus’s production, it feels repetitious.”
“Hyde Pierce is dry and clipped as Elomire, and there’s a nice turn by Stephen Ouimette as his sidekick, but this is Rylance’s show.”

📷 Main photo: La Bete at the Comedy Theatre - Review Round-up

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1 thought on “La Bete – Reviews Round-up”

  1. I am deeply disappointed by this play. La Bete is by far the worst play I have ever seen in my life. I encouraged a group of family and friends to see it with me and thought it would be promising given the cast. It was so bad that we landed up walking out after the first hour although I was ready to leave after 25 minutes, which was absolute torture – basically one drunken, crude actor with highly frenetic energy speaking absolute trash without breaking for breath. What a waste of money. My advice: don’t go! Not even if you are paid to. I cannot understand how anyone in their right mind could enjoy this.

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