Simon Callow is to direct a new West End production of Christopher Hampton’s 1970 play The Philanthropist, beginning performances April 3 prior to an official opening April 20 at the Trafalgar Studios, for a run through July 22.
Last seen in London at the Donmar Warehouse in 2005 in a production that starred Simon Russell Beale, it will now be revived with a cast that comprises Matt Berry, Simon Bird, Lily Cole, Charlotte Ritchie, and Tom Rosenthal.
Set in a fictitious English University town, strongly evoking Oxford or Cambridge, the play, according to press notes, “follows 24 hours in the lives of a group of young academics. The action unfolds in the rooms of Philip (Simon Bird), the university’s cosseted and floundering professor of philology, for whom solace and certitude exist in complex wordplay. Out in the ‘real world’ the Prime Minister and his cabinet have been assassinated and England's most treasured writers are being murdered one by one. When Philip hosts a dinner party, joined by his stylish and perceptive fiancée Celia (Charlotte Ritchie), his worldlier best friend Donald (Tom Rosenthal), the seductive Araminta (Lily Cole), and the wealthy and egomaniacal novelist Braham (Matt Berry), the evening sets off a chain of events which puncture the rarefied and cerebral world they inhabit. The morning after, the group is left to wade through the emotional detritus and navigate the consequences of their actions.”
In a press statement, director Callow commented, “When Christopher Hampton’s The Philanthropist first burst onto the world, he was 23; the play was really about his contemporaries, but neither then, nor ever since, has it been cast at the right age. I’m very excited, not only to be doing the play, which I think one of the funniest, sharpest plays in the English language, but to be doing it with a group of brilliantly witty and original young actors who will reveal the play as it’s never been seen before.”
Berry is best known for his television roles in comedy hits The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh (BBC3), and as star and writer of the sitcom Toast of London (Channel 4).
Bird is best known for his role in the BAFTA-winning The Inbetweeners (E4), which ran for three series, and its two globally successful movies, as well as Friday Night Dinner (Channel 4), which to date has run for four series.
Cole’s screen credits include St. Trinian’s, Ab Fab: The Movie, and Snow White and The Huntsman.
Rosenthal is known for his roles in hit comedies Friday Night Dinner (Channel 4), alongside his The Philanthropist co-star Simon Bird, and the British Comedy Award-winning series Plebs (ITV2). He is also featured in the second series of the award-winning crime drama Broadchurch (ITV).
Ritchie, best known as Nurse Barbara Gilbert in the drama series Call the Midwife (BBC 1), has also been seen in Fresh Meat (Channel 4) and Siblings (BBC3).
Hampton’s other works for the stage include Les Liaisons Dangereuses (recently revived on Broadway in a transfer of the Donmar Warehouse production) and Treats. He has also translated Florian Zeller’s plays The Father, The Mother, and The Truth. The Old Vic has recently presented a major re-staging of his translation of Yasmina Reza’s Art.
Callow’s credits as a director include Carmen Jones, the West End and Broadway productions of Shirley Valentine, and the award-winning Single Spies by Alan Bennett at the National Theatre and in the West End. Most recently, he has published his second Wagner biography, Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will (Cole Williams).
The Philanthropist is produced by Howard Panter for Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Simon Friend, and Gavin Kalin.
To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 871 7632 or visit atgtickets.com/the-philanthropist.