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Martha Clarke’s impassioned work of dance-theatre, inspired by Colette’s novels, charts the doomed love affair between a woman and a man half her age in belle-époque Paris.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Chéri. It was last on stage 29 September—4 October 2015 as part of the Autumn 2015/16 season.

The Story

The retired courtesan Léa has begun an affair with Chéri, the son of her best friend Madame Peloux. Madame Peloux jealously waits for the affair to run its course, but when their relationship shows no signs of ending she arranges a wealthy match for Chéri. Chéri takes his leave of Léa, who accepts his leaving but is devastated.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Acclaimed American choreographer Martha Clarke (The Garden of Earthly Delights, Vienna: Lusthaus) created Chéri for dancers Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo in 2013. Clarke found inspiration in her recurrent muse, the French writer Colette – this time her two novels Chéri (1920) and Le Fin de Chéri (1926), which describe the tragic love affair between a retired courtesan and a man half her age. Clarke’s Chéri is characteristically cross-media, incorporating dance with theatre and music to create a work that explores sensuality, love, loss and society’s unshakeable preoccupation with youth and age.

Chéri marked Ferri’s return to the stage, after retiring from dance in 2007, and Clarke specially tailored the two roles to the unique acting abilities of Ferri and Cornejo. Their pas de deux and solos are interspersed by four monologues from Chéri’s mother, Madame Peloux, adapted by award-winning American playwright Tina Howe from Colette’s text and performed in London by the acclaimed British actress Francesca Annis. Pianist Sarah Rothenberg assembled the score, a set of piano pieces from composers contemporary with Colette, such as Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc, played onstage. Chéri was acclaimed on its premiere, described by the New York Times as ‘entrancingly luminous and gorgeously danced’.

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