What do our contemporary British culture and philosophy owe to Europe? As the unravelling Brexit chaos begins to bite, a new British play celebrates the great sixteenth-century European who was the model for our contemporary lives.
Michael Barry‘s new one-man play The First Modern Man, about French Renaissance philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), gets its full-length premiere at London’s The Hen & Chickens Theatre in a pre-Brexit run from 19 February to 2 March 2019, with a press night on 21 February.
All those personal articles and blogs we devour about love, sex, money, the school run, and life itself, had their beginnings in a sixteenth-century melancholic French noble.
Michel de Montaigne wanted to retire to a contemplative life – but he had too much on his mind. He wrote his ideas down as a way of coping with melancholy and, by doing so, created the essay.
Barry’s The First Modern Man is set in de Montaigne’s library where, as his guest, we share the thoughts of a humane, clever, funny commentator on whatever comes into his mind: sex, cannibals, philosophy, death, witches, life, foreign travel, coaches, thumbs, colonialism, judicial torture, even ‘world’ music – and his cat.
Jonathan Hansler stars as Michel de Montaigne in this premiere production, directed by Helen Niland.
The real Michel de Montaigne’s massive volume Essais, comprising three books and 107 chapters of varying length, was first published in France in 1580. More so than any other Renaissance author, he became recognised for freely entertaining doubt of conventional wisdom, as characterised by the sceptical remark for which he became known: “What do I know?”
In addition to popularising the essay, de Montaigne had a direct influence on later Western writers including Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Isaac Asimov, and, some believe, on the later works of his British near-contemporary, William Shakespeare.
The First Modern Man runs from 19 February to 2 March 2019 at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, London N1 2NA, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm and Saturday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £8-£12. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Jonathan Hansler is an award-winning actor and writer. His West End credits include The Libertine and he’s been seen most recently on television in EastEnders. He appears as the lead villain in gothic horror film Automata, due to be released early 2019. The play Goodbye: The Afterlife of Cook and Moore, which he co-wrote, was presented to acclaim at the Comedy Museum in 2015 and will be revived in 2019.
Michael Barry has won the Player-Playwrights award for best short play twice and best comedy; was a winner in the CornerHouse short play competition with A Start. His play A Kind Bowl headlined the Transcend Festival of performance in 2013. And currently, Hanging Around is a shortlisted in the Ink festival themed play competition.
Helen Niland has numerous directing credits. She helmed A Kind Bowl for Michael in 2013 and her version of the spoof Martini Bond transferred to Bromley after a successful run at the Camden Fringe in 2012. She is also a founder and director of the creative agency Made in England.
— TheFirstModernMan (@FirstModern) December 3, 2018