Keira Knightley, Damian Lewis and Tara Fitzgerald to star in West End's The Misanthrope

09 Oct 2009

Keira Knightley, Damian Lewis and Tara Fitzgerald will star in a contemporary updating of Moliere's The Misanthrope, beginning performances at the West End's Comedy Theatre Dec. 7, prior to an official opening Dec. 17, for a season that is booking through March 13, 2010.

Directed by Thea Sharrock, the production will also feature Dominic Rowan and Tim McMullan; it is designed by Hildegard Bechtler, and produced by Howard Panter and Tali Perlman for the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Playwright Martin Crimp's version of Moliere's play, which transports the action from 17th-century Paris to modern-day London, was first staged at the Young Vic in 1996. In this version, Alceste (Lewis) is a famous British playwright disillusioned and angry with the hypocrisy, shallowness and vanity of the contemporary world. Vowing to reject society, Alceste's plans are derailed when he falls madly in love with Jennifer (Knightley). An ambitious American film star and darling of the social scene, she may prove to be his biggest challenge yet.

Knightley is best known for her film appearances in "Bend It Like Beckham," "Atonement" with James McAvoy, "The Duchess," "The Edge Of Love" with Sienna Miller, "Domino," "The Jacket," "Pride and Prejudice" (for which she was Oscar-nominated) and as the feisty Elizabeth Swann in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. She has recently completed filming on the movies "Never Let Me Go" and "London Boulevard," both due for release later this year. Her television credits include the critically acclaimed remake of "Doctor Zhivago," "Oliver" and "Coming Home." The daughter of two established British theatre practitioners – playwright Sharman Macdonald and stage and TV actor Will Knightley – she is partnered to Rupert Friend, who will also be appearing on the London stage this season in the British premiere of The Little Dog Laughed.

Lewis, who made his name in Spielberg's mini-series "Band of Brothers" has also been seen on TV in the NBC series "Life," the remake of "The Forsythe Saga" and "Confessions of a Diary Secretary" and the films "Dreamcatcher," "An Unfinished Life," "The Escapist," "Chromophobia" and "Stormbreaker." He is an established stage actor, last seen on the London stage in the National Theatre's production of Pillars of the Community in 2006.

Fitzgerald was last seen on the London stage in the Donmar Warehouse's production of A Doll's House in May 2009; other stage appearances include starring as Ophelia opposite Ralph Fiennes in Hamlet (London's Hackney Empire and subsequently Broadway), and Agatha Christie's And then there were None in the West End. She is currently best known to television audiences for her role as Dr. Eve Lockhart in the BBC drama series "Waking The Dead"; she has also starred in "Jane Eyre," "The Virgin Queen," "Miss Marple – Body In The Library," and the soon to be screened "U Be Dead."

Rowan has worked extensively in theatre, including appearances in A Voyage Around My Father (Donmar Warehouse and subsequently West End), Happy Now? (National), As You Like It (Globe), A Spanish Tragedy (Arcola), Way To Heaven (Royal Court) and Iphegina At Aulis (National). His television credits include "Catwalk Dogs" with Kris Marshall, "Baby Boom," Lynda La Plante’s "Trial & Retribution," "The Family Man" with Trevor Eve and "Hearts And Bones."

McMullan has worked extensively at the National, including appearances in Present Laughter, Coram Boy, The Alchemist, The Life of Galileo, Once in a Lifetime, Theater of Blood and His Dark Materials in recent years. In the West End, he was seen in The Deep Blue Sea. He has also worked with Complicite. Film appearances include "The Queen," "Shakespeare in Love," "Plunkett and Maclean," "Shadowland" and "The Fifth Element."

Sharrock is currently directing Mrs. Klein for the Almeida Theatre (beginning performances Oct. 22 prior to an official opening Oct. 29 for a run to Dec. 5), where she has also previously directed Cloud Nine. She previously directed As You Like It for Shakespeare's Globe this summer, and other recent productions include the West End revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus with Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe that subsequently transferred to Broadway, A Voyage Round My Father which transferred from the Donmar Warehouse to Wyndham's Theatre, Heroes at Wyndham's Theatre, Blithe Spirit (at Bath Theatre Royal that subsequently transferred to the West End's Savoy Theatre) and Emperor Jones and Happy Now?, both for the National Theatre.

Bechtler has previously been represented on Broadway by her designs for Primo (that transferred from the National Theatre), The Seagull (transferred from the Royal Court) and Hedda Gabler at Roundabout earlier this year.

Adaptor Martin Crimp's original plays include The City, Fewer Emergencies, Cruel and Tender, Face to the Wall, The Country, Attempts on Her Life, The Treatment, Getting Attention, No One Sees the Video, Play with Repeats, Dealing with Clair and Definitely the Bahamas. He has also previously translated Ionesco's The Chairs, first seen at the Royal Court and subsequently on Broadway, where it won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

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