A Man For All Seasons

Stage productions

Paul Scofield, who played the leading role in the West End premiere, reprised it on Broadway in 1961, winning a Tony Award. Both productions were directed by Noel Willman.

The original West End cast, playing at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre), included:

  • The Common Man – Leo McKern
  • Sir Thomas More – Paul Scofield
  • Richard Rich – John Brown
  • Duke of Norfolk – Alexander Gauge
  • Alice More – Wynne Clark
  • Margaret – Pat Keen
  • Cardinal Wolsey – Willoughby Goddard
  • Thomas Cromwell – Andrew Keir
  • Chapuys – Geoffrey Dunn
  • Attendant – Brian Harrison
  • Will Roper – John Carson
  • Henry VIII – Richard Leech
  • Woman – Beryl Andrews
  • Archbishop Cranmer – William Roderick

In London, Man ran simultaneously to another of Bolt's plays, The Tiger and the Horse. Both plays were major hits, although Horse was the more successful of the two. British critical reaction was largely positive, albeit reservedly so; few reviews at the time regarded the play as a classic. The show ran for 320 performances.

In the USA, the play was first performed on Broadway on 22 November 1961, at the ANTA Playhouse

Original Broadway cast

  • The Common Man – George Rose
  • Sir Thomas More – Paul Scofield
  • The Duke of Norfolk – Albert Dekker
  • Thomas Cromwell – Leo McKern (later Thomas Gomez)
  • King Henry VIII – Keith Baxter
  • Margaret More – Olga Bellin
  • William Roper – Peter Brandon
  • Catherine Anger – Sarah Burton
  • Attendant – John Colenback
  • Cardinal Wolsey – Jack Creley
  • Alice More- Carol Goodner
  • Thomas Cranmer – Lester Rawlins
  • Richard Rich – William Redfield
  • Signor Chapuys – David J. Stewart

The Broadway production was a huge hit, running for 620 performances. While the play had drawn mixed critical reviews in London, it was almost unanimously praised by the New York critics, who showered it with plaudits and awards.

Leo McKern played the Common Man in the West End version of the show, but was shifted to the role of Cromwell for the Broadway production – a role he later reprised in the film. While playing Cromwell, he appeared with one brown and one blue eye (McKern of course had lost an eye in an accident and wore a glass one) to accentuate his character's evil nature.

Charlton Heston played More in several versions of the play-off-Broadway in the 1970s and 1980s, eventually playing it on the West End. The play was a success and the West End production was taken to Aberdeen, Scotland, for a week where it was staged at His Majesty's Theatre. Heston considered it among his favourite roles. He also produced, directed, and starred in a film version of it (see below). The production gained a sort of notoriety when Dustin Hoffman spread the story that Heston, who was bald, was so vain that he wore a wig over his hairpiece, rather than let the public view his actual bald pate.

Another famous graduate of the play is Ian McKellen, whose first theatrical role was as Will Roper in a revival production in the late 1960s. He would go on to play More in a later run of the show. Faye Dunaway also made her stage debut as a replacement Margaret in the original Broadway run.

An acclaimed Canadian production starring William Hutt and directed by Walter Learning was presented at the Vancouver Playhouse and the Stratford Festival in 1986. At Stratford the production was paired with a production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, with both plays sharing many actors, and showing two perspectives on historical events.

The play was staged in London's West End at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket starring Martin Shaw and produced by Bill Kenwright. It closed on 1 April 2006.

A Broadway revival of the show, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, starring Frank Langella as More and directed by Doug Hughes, played at the American Airlines Theatre through December 2008. In this production, the character of The Common Man was deleted by the director (as Bolt had done when adapting his play for the first film version).[3]

In 2008, Thomas More was also portrayed on stage in Hong Kong as an allegorical symbol of the Pan-democracy camp resisting Chinese Communism when Hardy Tsoi, after translating A Man for All Seasons, mainly into Cantonese, but also with some parts in Mandarin, Spanish, Latin, and English, produced it as a play within a play.[4] Similarities were noted between More and contemporary pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong such as Martin Lee and Szeto Wah, with the Vatican being seen as representing British colonialism while Henry VIII and his regime were seen as representing Communist China "suppressing democracy and freedom" in Hong Kong.[4] According to Chapman Chen, Hardy Tsoi's version of the play is one of a number of Hong Kong works that suggest that mainstream postcolonial theories which invariably portray European colonialism as oppressive need to be "modified or balanced" to reflect the different experience of places like Hong Kong.[4]

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