Matt Berry on stage in the West End

Matt Berry will star in a new production of comedy play The Philanthropist at Trafalgar Studios in London.


© Shaun Webb

The celebrated play, which first premiered in London in 1970 and was written by Christopher Hampton, is a biting comedy set in a fictitious English University town. It follows 24 hours in the lives of a group of young academics, with the action unfolding in the home of Philip (Simon Bird – The InbetweenersFriday Night Dinner), the university’s professor of philology who finds solace 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! Meanwhile back in the cosy bubble of university life, the professor anguishes over sex, marriage, anagrams and the meaning of life.

When Philip hosts a dinner party, joined by his stylish and perceptive fiancée Celia (Charlotte Ritchie – Fresh Meat), his worldlier best friend Donald (Tom Rosenthal – Friday Night Dinner), the seductive Araminta (Lily Cole – The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus ) and the wealthy, 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.


© Shaun Webb

The new production will be directed by Simon Callow, who says: “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.”

And here’s a bit of Velvet Onion trivia for you: Matt Berry is playing the role that Simon Day (aka Brian Pern) played in a 2005 West End production and Camping‘s Jonathan Cake played in a 2009 Broadway production of the play!


© Shaun Webb

The Philanthropist will run at Trafalgar Studios from April 3rd to July 22nd and tickets are available from 23rd February.

Here’s a video in which the cast and director reveal what drew them to the play:

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