La Bete flopped when it was premiered in 1992 on Broadway. Viewing this new production, you can see why; the rhyming verse of the dialogue and the fiercely idiosyncra c nature of a number of the central characters mean that this is, at very best, a slow burner.

One of the play’s idiosyncratic characters is sourpuss Elomire (Phillip Cotterill), who leads the French royal court-sponsored theatre troupe. The troupe’s patron, Prince Conti (Colin Burnie), has recently discovered another, rather eccentric, writer by the name of Valere (Bill Moulford), and is keen to bring him into the troupe. However, Elomire views Valere as less idiot savant than idiot.

After a brief dialogue between Elomire and a minor character, Valere takes to the stage and launches into a rambling monologue. I felt like leaving the theatre. It’s something not helped by Bill Moulford’s kinetic, exaggerated performance.

However, as the play continued, I realised there was something in this. The playwright works in shades of grey, despite the dialogue’s bombast and the piece’s overbearing characters. The story has many concerns, but the most important is the difference between articulacy and chatter, and this difference’s relation to intelligence, creativity and success. The results surprise.

It just takes a while for this all-important undercurrent to emerge. Yet, the beauty of the play is that it is never clear cut or didactic. Elmoire speaks some sense, but he is also a terrible bore. Valere is pretentious and ignorant, but he is also quick-witted and charming. This intelligent production knows all this; even during the concluding speech, the action is undercut by music and sound off stage. A few first night blips aside (due to some dodgy scenery and lighting), and depending on your take on the portrayal of Valere, this is an excellent start to the theatrical year; this play is intelligent, thought-provoking and really pretty funny. Stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded.