1985: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The 1985 season closed with Orczy's 1903 play The Scarlet Pimpernel, a visually stunning production set in the early years of the French Revolution. It was a young Nicholas Hytner's directorial debut at Chichester, with a cast including Donald Sinden and Alex Jennings. Mark Thompson's design included a full size guillotine, which had to be constructed inside the theatre. In a brilliant stage trick, its huge blade dropped down, and the blood spattered heads fell into a basket.

Head of Stage Karl Meier remembers: "We created a blood effect for the guillotine, which the director and designer were so impressed with they insisted it was used even though some audience members sitting in front row would be splattered with fake blood. We did offer to pay for dry cleaning but most people appreciated the effect so much that few took us up on the offer!" Hytner and Jennings reunited at CFT for the first time since 1985 in The Southbury Child, a co-production with London's Bridge Theatre.

Production footage The Scarlet Pimpernel 1985, guillotine scene

**This video contains simulations of violence which may be too intense for some viewers.**


Cast List, The Scarlet Pimpernel
Production photograph ‚ÄčThe Scarlet Pimpernel 1985