The Philanthropist (play)

The Philanthropist is a play by Christopher Hampton, written as a response to Molière's The Misanthrope. After a tryout at the Royal Court Theatre, London, the piece premiered on Broadway under the direction of Robert Kidd. Kidd had previously collaborated with Hampton[1] on When Did You Last See Your Mother? (1964), which had also been staged at the Royal Court Theatre.

The Philanthropist
Written byChristopher Hampton
Date premiered1970 (London),
March 15, 1971 (1971-03-15) (Broadway)
Place premieredEthel Barrymore Theatre, Broadway, New York City, New York
Original languageEnglish
SubjectThe Misanthrope

Described by Hampton as a "bourgeois comedy", the piece is set in an "English University Town".[2] The Philanthropist demonstrated Hampton's ability "to write witty, subtle and revealing dialogue."[3]


A CurtainUp! review gave the following summary:[4]

"The prelude to the play is so very clever and it must have marked out the young Christopher Hampton for notice. It reminded me of [Tom] Stoppard's The Real Thing when everything isn't as it seems and the audience are strung along. Philip and Donald are in a tutorial with a student, John, discussing John's play which has a dramatic but unbelievable ending. The first act continues in Philip's rooms in college where his fiancée Celia is cooking dinner for six. First on the guest list is fellow don, and English lecturer, Donald, colleague and confidant of Philip. They are to be joined by a writer, Braham, Araminta and Liz. After a pairing off with lifts offered home, the six mix and meld. The next morning they reap the aftermath of the previous night's sexual activity or even inactivity. "


A small tryout production was staged in London at the Royal Court Theatre in 1970.[5][6] A further revised production played in 1970 at the Mayfair Theatre in London.[7] The Philanthropist then premiered on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 15, 1971, following previews from March 11. The cast featured Alec McCowen[8] in the lead role; David Merrick and Michael Codron produced.

The Broadway production ran for 64 performances, closing on May 15, 1971. The New York Times described it as "a good evening of high-class theatrical highjinks that says more than might be seen on the surface".[9] The show was nominated for three Tony Awards, including the 1971 Tony Award for Best Play, and McCowen won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance.[10] Robert Kidd directed the production,[11] which featured set design by John Gunter, costumes by Sara Brook, and lighting by Lloyd Burlingame.[12]

The first revival production opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club on September 27, 1983, playing a limited engagement run until November 20, 1983.[13] The play has been produced regionally many times, including the Bench Theatre Group's 1978 production at the Havant Arts Centre in Havant, Hampshire,[14] and in Duluth, Minnesota in March 2003.[15] A London revival was staged by David Grindley at the Donmar Warehouse, running from September to October 15, 2005, and starring Simon Russell Beale as Philip with Anna Madeley as Celia.[4]

In 2009, the Roundabout Theatre Company produced a revival starring Matthew Broderick, which opened on April 26 at the American Airlines Theatre in New York City.[6] The revival, met with mixed reviews,[16] and closed on June 28, 2009, after 73 performances.[17][18] This production was directed by David Grindley; sets were by Tim Shortall, lighting was by Rick Fisher, and costumes were by Tobin Ost, with sound design by Gregory Clarke.[19]

In 2017 it was revived at London's Trafalgar Studios, directed by Simon Callow, with a cast including Simon Bird, Matt Berry, Charlotte Ritchie, Lily Cole and Tom Rosenthal.

A BBC television adaptation, starring Ronald Pickup as Philip, Helen Mirren as Celia and James Bolam as Don, was screened in October 1975, and is contained in a 6 DVD set of Mirren's work for the BBC.[20]

Characters and casts

Casts of major productions

Character 1971 original Broadway 2005 London revival 2009 Roundabout revival 2017 London revival
PhilipAlec McCowenSimon Russell BealeMatthew BroderickSimon Bird
BrahamVictor SpinettiSimon DayJonathan CakeMatt Berry
LizCarolyn LagerfeltBernadette RussellN/ALowenna Melrose
Elizabeth N/A N/A Samantha Soule
JohnPaul CorumSimon BubbTate EllingtonJohn Seaward
Celia Jane Asher Anna MadeleyCharlotte Ritchie
AramintaPenelope WiltonSiobhan HewlettJennifer MudgeLily Cole
DonaldEd ZimmermannDanny WebbSteven WeberTom Rosenthal

Note: In later versions of the piece, "Elizabeth" replaced the character "Liz".

Awards and nominations

1970 Theatre Critics Awards[21]
  • Best New Play (winner)
1971 Tony Awards
  • Best Play (nominee)
  • Best Actor in Play (McCowen, nominee)
  • Best Featured Actor in a Play (Zimmermann, nominee)
1971 Drama Desk Awards
  • Outstanding Performance (McCowen, winner)
2005 Evening Standard Awards[22]
  • Best Actor (Beale, winner)
2006 Critics' Circle Awards
  • Best Actor (Beale, winner)


  1. Coveney, Michael (4 March 2006). "A talent to adapt". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  2. The Broadway League (June 28, 2009). "The Philanthropist". IBDB: The Official Source for all Broadway Information. Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  3. Chambers, Colin (2006). "Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre". Google Books. Continuum International Publishing Group. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  4. Loveridge, Lizzie. "The Philanthropist - Curtain Up Review". CurtainUp, September 15, 2005.
  5. Charles Isherwood. "The Mildest of Manners Have Perils". The New York Times.
  6. BWW News Desk. "'THE PHILANTHROPIST' Opens on Bdwy 4/26". BroadwayWorld.
  7. "Alec McCowen Biography (1925-)". Film Reference. Retrieved 30 April 2011. Philip, The Philanthropist, Royal Court Theatre, then May Fair Theatre, both London, 1970 later Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, 1971
  8. The Broadway League. "Alec McOwen | IBDB". Internet Broadway Database.
  9. Alexis Soloski. "Broderick on Broadway – a Philanthropist that's enough to turn anyone into a misanthrope". Guardian.
  10. Broadway League. "Production Awards" Archived 2012-10-24 at the Wayback Machine. IBDB.
  11. "Robert Kidd". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  12. 1971 production listing IBDB
  13. "The Best plays of 1983-1984", Google Books, accessed 30 April 2011.
  14. "The Philanthropist", Bench Theatre Group.
  15. "The Philanthropist", The University of Minnesota Duluth Department of Theatre.
  16. BWW Staff. "Broadway Blogs - Review Roundup: The Philanthropist and More...". BroadwayWorld.
  17. 2009 IBDB listing
  18. Joan Marcus. "The Philanthropist, with Matthew Broderick, Arrives on Broadway". Playbill Photos.
  19. Jones, Kenneth. "Roundabout's Philanthropist Ends June 28",, June 28, 2009.
  20. Ward, Philip (2019). Becoming Helen Mirren. Troubador Press. ISBN 9781838597146.
  21. Methuen, "The Best of Plays and players, 1969-1983", 1989, accessed 15 April 2010
  22. "Awards". Donmar Warehouse. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.