We, the Musical Lieutenant and myself, recently when to see Farinelli and the King a play that was originally set to Candlelight at the Sam Wanamaker’s Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe , somewhere to be praised for it’s accessibility. I was originally invited to see it there and I wish I’d gone as the view would have been better.  It has now transferred to the West End to the Duke of York’s Theatre in St. Martin’s Lane.

The play was slow to start as it consisted of Mark Rylance, King Philippe V of Spain, talking to a goldfish with a couple of lame jokes. However it got better and better especially when Farinelli appeared and sang. A world famous castrato (yes it’s what it sounds like) brought over from London by the king’s wife to help him get out of his depression. Sung by countertenor Iestyn Davies (go to this link and you can hear him), he made the play really interesting and with the candlelight very special.

The Guardian said it is a

“richly unusual evening that not only demonstrates music’s curative power for a mad king but its ability to offer spiritual uplift to just about everyone else.”


Mark Rylance as Phillip II of Spain Saved From Madness by the Voice of Farinelli - A Castrato
Mark Rylance as Philippe V of Spain Saved From Madness by the Voice of Farinelli – A Castrato

I have to agree as it was a lovely evening, the play was good and taken to another level by the performance of Mark Rylance as the Bi-Polar King. His presence on the stage is totally engaging and his depiction of the King went from sad to selfish to just mean.

The Duke of York’s theatre is an intimate and old 19th century theatre so the fact that there was access at all surprised me. It’s level with the street and you can only get access to the royal circle seats, just off from the foyer where there’s also a disabled toilet. Two wheelchair spaces are available and they have a restricted view but as the stage is small I didn’t miss much. The staff were really helpful and I think I could easily go there without a carer.

As for the restorative power of music promoted in the play listen to this recording of Iestyn Davies – it will restore through it’s music and comedy?!!! Listen you’ll see why…..

After the performance we went to Tredwell’s a short wheel to Upper St. Martin’s Lane, reviewed previously here. Accessible, late night opening and great Marcus Waring food. An enjoyable evening and I can’t wait to visit some more of the Ambassador Group Theatres.




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