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Martine - Finborough Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

PRIMAVERA is presenting the first revival in over 25 years of Jean-Jacques Bernard’s Martine at the Finborough Theatre – from Tuesday, April 22 to Saturday, May 17, 2014.

Originally written in 1922, Martine was first produced in English at the Gate Theatre in 1929, and played the West End in 1933. During the 1920s and 1930s, it was performed all over the world with many leading actresses of the day in the title role, including Madeleine Renaud.

It was filmed for the BBC in 1952 with a cast including Claire Bloom and Denholm Elliot, and in 1985 John Fowles’s translation was produced at the National Theatre, where it was directed by Peter Hall and starred Wendy Morgan.

When you’re away I can’t survive without her, I keep talking to her about you. And I hurt her. I seem to have to do it.

The Great War is over. It is the summer of 1920, in rural France. By a dusty road, a girl is sitting under the shade of an apple tree. She sees someone walking towards her. He is a young man, just back from fighting in Syria. He joins her under the tree, and a tragic love story begins.

Often compared to Chekhov, and much admired by Harold Pinter, Jean-Jacques Bernard creates a unique emotional landscape of beauty and longing, desire and disappointment.

Playwright Jean-Jacques Bernard was born in 1888, the son of leading French dramatist Tristan Bernard. Bernard belonged to a group of artists called La Chimère, who attacked the prevailing melodramatic theatre (which they described as ‘an armchair between dinner and bedtime’) and pioneered drama that was domestic in action and naturalistic in style.

His other plays include L’Invitation au Voyage, Nationale 6 and The Gardener of Ispahan. As a Jew living in occupied France, he was imprisoned during the Second World War in the notorious Compiègne camp and narrowly escaped deportation. He died in 1972.

Martine is translated by English novelist John Fowles (1926-2005). After reading French at Oxford University, he became a teacher before starting to write. His best-known works include The Collector (1963), The Magus (1966) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) which was later made into an Oscar-nominated film with a screenplay by Harold Pinter.

Fowles also completed two other translations for the National Theatre – Don Juan (1981) and Lorenzaccio (1983). He was named by The Times in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest post-War writers.

Martine is directed by Primavera’s Artistic Director Tom Littler, whose recent work includes the premiere of Dances of Death (Gate Theatre), Good Grief with Penelope Keith (Theatre Royal Bath and tour), A Little Night Music (Budapest) and Murder in the Cathedral (Oxford Playhouse).

His productions for Primavera include The Living Room, Bloody Poetry and Anyone Can Whistle (Jermyn Street Theatre), Saturday Night (Arts Theatre), the premiere of Shiverman and the European premiere of Madagascar (Theatre503) and Antigone (Southwark Playhouse).

Littler was Associate Director of the Peter Hall Company for three years, and worked four times as Trevor Nunn’s associate. He is Associate Director of Theatre503.

The award-winning creative team includes design by Cherry Truluck (All That Fall, Jermyn Street, Arts, and off-Broadway), costumes by Emily Stuart (Offie Award, Best Costumes, for Primavera’s Anyone Can Whistle), lighting by Tim Mascall and sound by Max Pappenheim.

For more information or to book, call the box office on 0844 847 1652 or visit

Martine is Primavera’s second production for 2014 after Pinero’s The Notorious Mrs Ebbsmith, which runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from Tuesday, April 8 to Saturday, May 3, 2014.

Also at the Finborough: the first production in more than fifty years of Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme (February 25 to March 22, 2014) and the world premiere of a new musical adaptation of Émile Zola’s classic French novel Thérèse Raquin, starring Julie Atherton in the title role (March 25 to April 19).