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The Wednesday Play: Malatesta (BBC Drama, Patrick Wymark)

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The Wednesday Play

Original Publicity: Wednesday Play – Malatesta: The Italian Renaissance, Europe’s first awakening from the long night which followed the fall of Rome, produced an extraordinary type of man. On the one hand a scholar and amateur of the newly flourishing arts, the Renaissance man was often at the same time a calmly ruthless gangster. Tonight’s play is about just such a person, Sigismondo Malatesta. He was a fifteenth-century condottiere, or “free-lance” in the original sense, who grew immensely rich by hiring his services as a general to any one of Italy’s incessantly warring princes while concurrently acting as a cultivated patron of the arts. Henry de Montherlant, author of the play, finds in Malatesta the direct inversion of his usual type of hero.

In plays like The Master Of Santiago, seen earlier this year on BBC Television, he depicted a man austerely dedicated to his own impossibly lofty code; here he examines a profane saint, equally dedicated to the pursuit of unmitigated power and evil. As the play opens, Malatesta (Patrick Wymark) has returned to his palace in Rimini after suppressing a rising with the utmost savagery. Until the next campaign he can relax in the company of painters and savants; but soon there comes news that his power is threatened by the Pope, and at once the utterly evil side of his character reasserts itself. Starring with Patrick Wymark is Jessica Dunning as his wife Isotta, and the director is Christopher Morahan who directed the earlier Montherlant work for television. The translation from the French is by Jonathan Griffin. (Radio Times, November 26, 1964).

Series: The Wednesday Play Season 1 Episode 6

Cast: Patrick Wymark (Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta), Cyril Shaps (Porcellio), Jessica Dunning (Isotta Da Rimini), John Glyn-Jones (Pope Paul), John Hollis (Sacramoro), Michael Warren (Cinquedenti), Roger Croucher (Venieri, Lord of Camerino), Norman Scace (Papal Chamberlain), Brown Derby (Cardinal Marcanova), Blake Butler (Cardinal of Pavia), Dallas Cavell (Scarampa), Neil Robinson (Narni), Jack Melford (Platina), Reginald Jessup (Cardinal Borgia), David Grey (Monsignor Perugia), Judy Geeson (Vanella), Lala Lloyd (Aloysia), David March (Narrator)

Writer: Rosemary Hill / Story: Henry de Montherlant (translated by Jonathan Griffin) / Script Editor: Harry Moore / Costume Design: Michael Endacott / Music: Richard Rodney Bennett / Producer: Peter Luke / Director: Christopher Morahan

UK / BBC One / 1×95 minute episode / Broadcast 2 December 1964 at 9.25pm