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M. Butterfly

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Closed January 14, 2018

Urgently relevant... Clive Owen is terrific.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Why See M. Butterfly?

Directed by Julie taymor

Clive Owen (Old Times, The Knick) returns to Broadway in this revival of the celebrated play M. Butterfly. Based on an extraordinary true story, M. Butterfly details the affair between a French diplomat and Chinese opera singer that was revealed to be an elaborate honeypot operation by the Chinese secret service. M. Butterfly opens with the diplomat in prison and plays out as a series of flashbacks of the relationship, which are beautifully entwined with allusions to Madama Butterfly as a way of exploring the troubling power dynamics between an 'all-powerful' West and a 'submissive' East.

Written by David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly premiered on Broadway in 1988 and won three Tony Awards, including Best Play. Set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, M. Butterfly is ripe for director Julie Taymor's renowned visual flair and sense of grandeur.

What is M. Butterfly About?

Disgraced and abandoned by all those who once loved him, imprisoned Rene Gallimard looks back at the events which put him behind bars. A former diplomat, and married man, Gallimard was posted to the French embassy in Peking in the 1960s, where he laid eyes on Song Liling (played by Jin Ha), a Chinese opera star who would be his infatuation for the next twenty years, and ultimately his downfall.

The two began an affair, which they maintained for twenty years, during which time they were separated and then reunited once again in France. Yet the whole relationship was in fact an utter sham, a complex honeypot operation concocted by the Chinese intelligence services, who persuaded Gallimard to pass them secret documents in exchange for contact with Liling. The pair were eventually arrested in France for spying, and put to trial in court.

Did You Know?

The real life pair on which M. Butterfly is based, Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, maintained infrequent contact up until Pei Pu's death in 2009. In an interview with The New York Times, Boursicot shed no tears for his former lover, remarking: "The plate is clean now. I am free."

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Additional Information


Previews from: 7 October 2017

Opening night: 26 October 2017


Recommended for ages 16+

Run time

Two hours, including one intermission

Cast and Creative


Clive Owen as Rene Gallimard
Jin Ha as Song Liling

Ensemble: Clea Alsip, Murray Bartlett, Michael Countryman, Celeste Den, Jess Fry, Enid Graham, Thomas Michael Hammond, Cole Horibe, Jason Ignacio, Kristen Faith Oei, Erica Sweany, John Leonard Thompson, and Erica Wong


Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Julie Taymor
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Choreography by Ma Cong
Scenic Design by Paul Steinberg
Costumes by Constance Hoffman
Lighting by Donald Holder
Sound Design by Will Pickens
Wig and Hair Design by Dave Bova
Makeup Design by Judy Chin

What we thought

FASCINATING different Mesmerizing

Perhaps Hwang's play is begging us to come out of our cocoons

Director, Julie Taymor has brought a sensuality and beauty to this revival, and Owen delivers an incredible performance as he guides us through his journey of complicated emotions.

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Josephine Knight

Josephine Knight

What you thought

4 reviews, average rating: (5.0 Stars)

5.0 star rating

Jack Eisenberg: “M. Butterfly- AMAZING!”

I don't consider myself a theatre man myself; I was sort of dragged to... more

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