Ring Round The Moon

About the play

from the programme:

The Story

…. is complicated! Hugo and Frederic, twins, live with their Aunt, Madame Desmortes, in a French chateau, just before the First World War. Frederic, gentle and vulnerable, is in love with Diana Messerschmann, daughter of a Jewish millionaire. She treats him with contempt and disdain. Hugo, cold, cynical and ruthless though he is, cannot bear to see Frederic unhappy, so he arranges for a young ballet dancer to pretend to be his friend Romainville’s niece, and invites them to his aunt’s ball.

Pretending to be in love with her, Hugo hopes to make Frederic jealous and so distract him from Diana. Madame Desmortes’ niece, Lady India, is also at the chateau. She is Messerschmann’s ‘official’ mistress, but is having a secret affair with Patrice Bombelles, his private secretary. Things do not seem what they are as the evening unfolds.

The Author and Adapter

Jean Anouilh, one of the most prolific of twentieth-century French dramatists, is best known for ‘Antigone’, ‘The Lark’, ‘Poor Bitos’, ‘Point of Departure’, ‘The Rehearsal’ and ‘Beckett.’

Many of his plays deal with the confrontation of innocence with worldliness and experience and with the question of honour, some treating these themes tragically, some in a more light-hearted manner. The play was adapted for the British stage by the dramatist Christopher Fry, who changed the title from ‘Invitation to the Chateau’ to ‘Ring Round the Moon’. Calling it a ‘charade with music’ was an attempt to convey both the highly theatrical style of the piece and the way the characters are all playing guessing-games with one another.

The Play

Essentially an ‘entertainment’, there are no deep issues discussed in the play and, as Madame Desmortes remarks, ‘everything has to end happily, it’s only decent’. The play is extremely theatrical and Anouilh docs nothing to detract from the artificiality of the events. Indeed he sets the play in the elegant and superficial society of pre-war days in order to establish the mood of fantasy and the appearance of a fairy story. However, there are hints of more serious considerations when we see what can happen to the innocent poor when they are manipulated by the cynical rich. Indeed, when the play was recently revived at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Christopher Fry restored a scene between Messerschmann and his daughter, Diana, that he had omitted from the original 1950 version. Here the power of money and the role of honour are discussed. Anouilh clearly insists that there is no compatibility between money and happiness, a theme already explored in earlier plays.

The Production

‘Ring Round the Moon’ was originally produced at the Globe Theatre, London, in 1950, by Peter Brook, with Paul Schofield as Hugo and Frederic, Claire Bloom as Isabelle, and Margaret Rutherford as Madame Desmortes.

The play was previously performed by the Repertory Players in 1964 (click here to go to the 1964 production), when Ken Lowe, the present director, played Hugo and Frederic and Mary Bartholomew, now Madame Desmortes, played Lady India.




Photos will be added as they become available


Diana Messerschmann
Lady India
Patrice Bombelles
Madame Desmortes
Her mother
The General

Select an Actor to see a list of their other credits



Click here to download a copy of the programme (PDF format)

Ring Round The Moon - 1998