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Broadway, New York, NY


Opens 26 Oct 2017

Clive Owen leads this extraordinary tale of spying and sexual subterfuge

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A tale Of Espionage And Sexual Deception

Clive Owen (Old Times, The Knick) returns to Broadway in this revival of the play celebrated 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. Furthermore, the opera singer was in fact a man, masquerading as female. 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 Taymor's renowned visual flair and sense of grandeur. Tony-winning director Julie Taymor (The Lion King) helms the production.

What is M. Butterfly About?

Disgraced and abandoned by all those who once loved him, imprisoned Rene Gallmard 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, 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 two decades, 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 at the ensuing trial, the authorities reveal to Gallimard the shocking fact that Song is actually a man.

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, Boursict shed no tears for his former lover, remarking: "The plate is clean now. I am free."

Additional Information


Opening night: 26 October 2017



Run time


And before you stop reading

Image by Mario Antonio Pena Zapaterķa Used under Creative Commons License


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