The First Modern Man is about the life of the extraordinary Michel de Montaigne.
This sixteenth century French aristocrat gave up public life for the solitary and civilized pleasures of reading and thought but then found himself a prey to melancholia, which he fought by writing down his thoughts. In this process, he created the form we now know as the ‘essay’, and also started streams of thought which still shape us today - which is why Leonard Woolf described him as the 'first modern man'.
Montaigne looked at his own life with an honesty which was unknown before him. By bringing his own self to centre stage, he created the modern habit of detailed self-scrutiny. How many thousands of colour supplement articles owe their origin to him!
In the play, you will be a guest of Montaigne, and share his funny, thought-provoking and humane thoughts on a range of areas: sexual habits, favourite foods, and thoughts on just about everything - from thumbs, the habit of wearing clothes; to the impossibility of fixing human nature to a single description. No one was a honest as him before; he showed us all how to be our own heroes.
Montaigne’s filters his world though a light, dry humour – and his world is broad, presaging ours in many ways. He has a claim to be a founder of ‘world’ music; thought we had a duty to safeguard the natural world when the concept of ecology was practically unknown; , and pointed out, years before the British empire made its first faltering steps, how barbaric empire builders were in contrast to the native peoples they brutalized.
Come and meet him, you'll enjoy his company!
Our production is in the lovely 'black box' space of the Hen and Chickens theatre bar, Islington. This is easily reached by underground - Highbury and Islington (Victoria line, fast and frequent) is about a minute away (for a slow walker). Look up as you leave the station and you see the theatre bar.
Our run starts on Tuesday, 19th February until 2nd March23rd January. Performances (Tuesday to Saturday) are at 7.30 with a matinee on Saturdays at 3.00 p.m.
‘The First Modern Man’ is a single-character piece, with the part of Montaigne being taken by Jonathan Hansler. Jonathan appeared on the West End stage in ‘The Libertine’ last year; and both wrote and appeared in ‘Goodbye: the Afterlife of Cook and Moore’ which played to acclaim in the Gilded Balloon in 2007 and was revived at the Comedy Museum (to more rave reviews) in 2015. there is quite a buzz about the horror film 'Automata' which is to be released this year and in which Jonathan plays the lead villain.