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The Knight
of the Burning Pestle

The Knight of the Burning Pestle

or The London Merchant

Written by Francis Beaumont
Performed in Russian with surtitles
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes, no interval
Premiered in 2019

In this 2019 production, Cheek by Jowl and Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre reunited to present Francis Beaumont’s subversive and darkly funny play within a play. The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a breath-taking comedy, hilarious and terrifying in its relevance to a post-expert world where everyone can be famous and anyone can write the story.

‘The London Merchant’ begins, a thoughtful drama about dysfunctional families. But suddenly, from the audience, a grocer and his wife clamber onto the stage and politely explain to the astonished actors that they are a little bit bored and wouldn’t it be better to cheer the evening up with exotic locations and a Knight – indeed their apprentice grocer Rafe is just the man for the job.

Rafe is duly arrayed as the Knight of the Burning Pestle and his chivalric adventures are played out while the domestic drama of the London Merchant struggles towards its conclusion, chronically interrupted by the grocer and his wife who surprisingly get highly involved with its gritty, unpredictable narrative.

Beaumont’s subversive meta-drama burst onto the stage in 1607, at a critical moment when theatre was threatened by a popular movement increasingly hostile to art and culture. A disturbing comedy centuries ahead of its time, it subtly asks questions all the more relevant today: what is art for? Who is art for?

Produced by Cheek by Jowl and Moscow Pushkin Drama Theatre in a co-production with the Barbican, London; Les Gémeaux/Sceaux/Scène Nationale; Centro Dramático Nacional, Madrid (INAEM).

“A blaze of life and theatre”


Cast and creative team


Alexander FeklistovGrocer
Agrippina SteklovaGrocer’s wife
Nazar SafonovRafe
Sergei MillerVenturewell
Anna VardevanianLuce
Kirill ChernyshenkoJasper
Andrei KuzichevHumphrey
Alexei RakhmanovMr Merrythought
Anna KarmakovaMrs Merrythought
Danila KazakovMichael
Kirill SbitnevTim

Creative Team

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Lighting designerAlexander Sivaev
ComposerPavel Akimkin
ChoreographerIrina Kashuba
Assistant directorIgor Teplov
International Tour

Previous Performances

20 August 2021Worldwide, Livestream from Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Romania
20-21 August 2021Sibiu, Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Romania
26-27 September 2020Voronezh, Platonov Arts Festival, Russia
24 September 2020Samara, Samara Drama Theatre, Russia
24-26 September 2019Toulouse, Théâtre de la Cité, France
4 August 2019Gdańsk, Gdański Teatr Szekspirowski, Poland
16 January–2 February 2019Sceaux, Les Gémeaux, Paris, France
24-28 April 2019Madrid, Centro Dramático Nacional, Spain
5-8 June 2019London, Barbican, UK
Performances in Repertory

Previous Performances

26 December 2021Moscow, Pushkin Drama Theatre, Russia
21 November 2021
22 October 2021
6 June 2021
18 April 2021
27 March 2021
21 February 2021
13 January 2021
13 December 2020
19 September 2020
31 January 2020
9-10 November 2019
18-19 October 2019
27 June 2019
21–22 May 2019
30 March 2019
13–15 March 2019
Awards and reviews


Best Show of the Season 2019

Moskovskiy Komsomoletc Newspaper

Best Production 2019

Crystal Turandot Awards



“Simple and wild direction… Diabolical tempo… Radical…A blaze of life and theatre.”

Télérama Read the full review

“Irresistible…A whirlwind anthem to theatre and why we need it now”

Le Figaro Read the full review


Les Inrockuptibles Read the full review

“Virtuoso cast”

Les Echos


“Witty, joyous, never before have we seen such a collision of traditional and modern art!”


“Donnellan grasps something in Russia that we, being inside, just don’t notice – this is why, as always, he hits the nail right on the head”

Rossiyskaya Gazeta


“Touched by grace…Donnellan gives free rein to the Russian actors, all magnificent”

El País Read the full review

“Pure fun, pure enjoyment”

ABC Read the full review

“Imagination and perfection”

El Mundo Read the full review

“A magnificent and versatile cast…Extraordinary”

El Cultural Read the full review

“Brilliant and festive…The audience melted with pleasure at Cheek by Jowl and its acclaimed Russian company”

Periodista Digital Read the full review


“Cultural sabotage of the wittiest kind…performed by a crack Russian cast”

The Telegraph Read the full review

“The Russian company is dizzyingly skilful”

The Stage Read the full review

“Audacious and bewitching”

The Times

“Freshly modern, polemic and truly hilarious”

Theatre Weekly Read the full review

“a wonderful, mad night”

What’s On Stage Read the full review

Production photo
The Company. Photograph: Johan Persson.
Production photo
The Company. Photograph: Johan Persson.


Les Inrockuptibles

“A whirlwind anthem to theatre
and why we need it now.”

Le Figaro

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