Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageReview: The Philanthropist revived for the London Stage Special

By Tim Sandle     May 22, 2017 in Entertainment
London - The Philanthropist, a play popular in 1970s, has been revived for a new London run being performed at the Trafalgar Theater in London. Digital Journal paid a visit and assesses the unfolding drama.
The Philanthropist is a play written by Christopher Hampton in 1970. Hampton produced the play in response to Molière's The Misanthrope (a satire about a truth-telling man-hater who snipes at the prancing poseurs of French aristocratic society). In Hampton's drama the lead character is a blithe, if somewhat naive, cheerleader for humanity.
The stage for The Philanthropists as viewed from the fith row.
The stage for The Philanthropists as viewed from the fith row.
The play was performed in London and then on Broadway. In conceiving the play, Hampton described it at the time as a "bourgeois comedy." The playwright is also known, together with his other theatrical works, for his screenplay for the movie Atonement.
Theatre programme for the 2017 revival of The Philanthropist .
Theatre programme for the 2017 revival of The Philanthropist .
The play is set in an unnamed English University Town. Central to the play is a dinner party, some off-set sexual activity (and inactivity) and a second act focused on the ramifications and how the cast deal with honesty and dishonesty and the sometimes gray area in-between. Also interesting is the prelude where two academics and their student discuss a play with an unbelievable ending that the student has written only for the on stage drama to extend into an unexpected and slightly unbelievable situation, which forms the backdrop to the first major act.
The play is marked by witty, subtle and often revealing dialogue, with the aim to tap into different characteristics of the human condition. As one character states: "My problem is I'm a man of no convictions. At least, I think I am." The same character, the lead role of Philip, who teaches English later states his academic role as combining "the boredom of the science faculties with the uselessness of the arts faculties".
The play is full of competing philosophies. The other academic, Donald takes the view that people can be divided into two camps: those who live a lie or those live according to something which they believe to be the truth but is in fact a lie. If this is so, then either way we are fooled; however, the difference is in whether we are fooling ourselves or others. In-between this is the character of Philip whose continued awkward situations develop from his inability to condemn other people.
The new production at London's Trafalgar Studios is directed by Simon Callow (famous for playing Charles Dickens innumerable times as well as for appearing in the movie Four Wedding and a Funeral).
One of the theatre bills for The Philanthropist  2017.
One of the theatre bills for The Philanthropist, 2017.
Second poster for The Philanthropist featuring actor Simon Bird.
Second poster for The Philanthropist featuring actor Simon Bird.
The cast includes Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal (from the British sitcom Friday Night Dinner), together with experienced actor Matt Berry, Charlotte Ritchie, and former model Lily Cole.
The play works reasonably well although much rests on the acting of Simon Bird and the extent that he conveys sympathy for his character. In the first act he is funny; in the second, intended to be more self-reflecting, this doesn't play as well. The best performance comes from Berry, powerfully domineering as a purple-suited novelist, he wields his political incorrectness across the first act.
The bar area at the Trafalgar Theatre  London.
The bar area at the Trafalgar Theatre, London.
The extent to which the play overall is enjoyable depends upon the emotive response to the messages and how well you take to watching amusing, but somewhat smug intellectuals pontificating within the bubble of academia (designed to make a point the assassination of the prime minister is raised as a news item of the day, at one point, but the conversation veers back to focusing on the banal). The ultimate reaction rests on the extent audience goers feel sympathy for the cardigan-wearing etiolated character of Philip.
Closer view of the stage for the 2017 revival of The Philanthropist   in London.
Closer view of the stage for the 2017 revival of The Philanthropist , in London.
The play, as a diverting comedy or for musing on the differences between people, is worth watching but there's something unsatisfying about the humorous first act and the downbeat, almost ineffectual second.{
image(343716,center,large)}
More about The Philanthropist, Play, Theater, Theatre, London
More news from
Entertainment Video
Latest News
Top News