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Martin Shaw stars in The Best Man at the Playhouse Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

MARTIN Shaw will star in the West End premiere of Gore Vidal’s sharp political drama The Best Man, which runs at the Playhouse Theatre from March 5 (previews from February 24) to May 12, 2018.

Written and produced on Broadway nearly 60 years ago, The Best Man has never previously transferred to the West End because it was thought that American politics were of no real interest to London audiences.

Simon Evans directs a cast that also includes Jeff Fahey, Jack Shepherd, Maureen Lipman, Glynis Barber and Honeysuckle Weeks, with further casting to be announced.

Martin Shaw is William Russell, esteemed ex-Secretary of State and US presidential candidate, with something of a philandering reputation. Jeff Fahey is Joseph Cantwell, an ambitious populist newcomer, opposing Russell for the party nomination.

Running neck and neck, the only thing that might separate the candidates are endorsements from a respected Ex-President (Jack Shepherd) and party big-wig (Maureen Lipman). As the race heats up, the campaign gets personal, involving Russell’s estranged wife Alice (Glynis Barber) and Cantwell’s wife Mabel (Honeysuckle Weeks).

But where does compromise end and corruption begin? How far will they each go to become the most powerful man in the world? And who in the end will be proven to be “the best man”?

The play mirrors the often surprising results of campaigning, and the all-too-often unscrupulous world of politics.

Martin Shaw is best known to TV audiences for the title-roles in Judge John Deed, Inspector George Gently and The Professionals. His leading-man West End stage roles include Twelve Angry Men, A Man For All Seasons and The Country Girl directed by Rufus Norris.

Jeff Fahey has starred in many indie movie classics, including the title role in cult sci-fi hit The Lawnmower Man opposite Pierce Brosnan and in Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. He has rarely been off our TV screens, starring in US series The Marshal and more recently in Lost. He returns to the West End stage following his acclaimed performance in Twelve Angry Men alongside Martin Shaw.

One of Britain’s finest and best loved film, TV and theatre actresses, Maureen Lipman (CBE) is known on the big screen for films such as Educating Rita (as Trish) and the Oscar Award-winning The Pianist; while her TV appearances range from the landlady of The Rover’s Return in Coronation Street to the Princess of France in Love’s Labours Lost. A prolific stage actress, Lipman is an Olivier Award-winner (See How They Run) and has appeared in some 20 West End productions.

Star of TV’s Wycliffe and Bill Brand, Jack Shepherd’s extensive stage credits include his award-winning performance in Glengarry Glen Ross and The Iceman Cometh at the National Theatre.

Glynis Barber is well known for TV roles in Dempsey and Makepeace, Night and Day and EastEnders. Her stage credits include the original London cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Story at the Aldwych Theatre, and The Graduate.

Honeysuckle Weeks is best known for starring alongside Michael Kitchen in the hit TV drama Foyle’s War (as Samantha Stewart). Her theatre work includes The Shining Lives at the Park Theatre, Pygmalion and Love’s Labour’s Lost at Chichester Festival Theatre and A Daughter’s A Daughter in the West End.

Born into a distinguished political family, Gore Vidal was a prolific writer known for the waspish wit which peppered his essays, novels, screenplays and Broadway plays. Among his most famous works are Myra Breckinridge and Lincoln.

The Best Man premiered on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including ‘Best Play’. Vidal adapted it into a film with the same title in 1964 starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson and Lee Tracy, who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the crafty ex-President. The play received a major revival on Broadway in 2012 starring James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury, and earned two Tony award nominations including ‘Best Revival of a Play’.

Director Simon Evans’ credits include The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Silence of the Seas (Donmar Warehouse), The Dazzle, Bug, Fool for Love (Found111), Almost Maine (Park Theatre), Hannah (Unicorn Theatre), Speed Twins (Riverside Studio), Laura Marling, Shawshank Redemption and Ghostbusters (Secret Cinema), Rubber Room (The Old Vic) and Madness in Valencia (Trafalgar Studios).

Evans was Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse, Staff Director at the National and Creative Associate at the Bush.

Produced by Bill Kenwright, The Best Man has set and costume design by Michael Taylor, lighting design by Chris Davey and composition and sound design by Ed Lewis.

Tickets: From £15 – available from the box office on 0844 871 7631 or online at

Times: Monday to Saturday evenings at 7.45pm; Thursday and Saturday matinees at 3pm.