by JEAN ANOUILH
April 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28 at 7:30, Matinees April 22 at 4:00 and 28 at 2:00, Early April 24 at 6:30
ODEON THEATRE, Queen Street, Norwood
play originally translated by LUCIENNE HILL
performed by arrangement with ORIGINTM THEATRICAL on behalf of SAMUEL FRENCH INC
Henry II of England and his chancellor, Thomas Becket are best friends. They share a love of hunting, wine, women – and fighting the church. When the old Archbishop of Canterbury dies, Henry hits on a brilliant scheme to bring the church under royal control. He will appoint his friend as the new archbishop!
Becket is horrified, and begs Henry not to do it. “If I become archbishop, I can no longer be your friend.” Henry, laughingly dismisses Becket’s fears, and proceeds with his plan, thus setting in motion one of the most titanic power clashes in mediaeval England, and culminating in Becket’s martyrdom in Canterbury Cathedral.
Anouilh’s play had its London premiere in 1961, with Christopher Plummer and Eric Porter as Henry and Becket. It was then famously filmed in 1964, with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, both at the height of their fame [O’Toole from Lawrence of Arabia and Burton from Cleopatra] as king and archbishop. More recently, the play was revived with Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay in the roles.
This powerful play, with its two compelling central characters and its clash of ideologies is every bit as pertinent today as when it was written. Above all, it is a brilliant piece of theatre.