WHAT if Napoleon did not die in exile? What if he swapped identities with a lowly sailor and made his way back to Paris? What then?

Welcome to Told By An Idiot, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, and Arcola Theatre's world premiere of Napoleon Disrobed, a comic alternative history based on Simon Leys' novella The Death Of Napoleon.

After last year's collaboration on My Perfect Mind, director Kathryn Hunter and Told By An Idiot co-founder and artistic director Paul Hunter reunite to present a wry re-imagining of the final years of Napoleon Bonaparte, touring their premiere to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from March 20 to 24.

Joining lead actor Paul Hunter on the road will be Ayesha Antoine, who made such an impression at the SJT in Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day, Absurd Person Singular and Surprises. She went on to perform My Wonderful Day in New York too.

York Press:

Ayesha Antoine: returning to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the spring. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Leys' playful meditation on the significance of power examines how legend can often be stronger than reality. Using Told By An Idiot’s trademark comic physicality, Napoleon Disrobed looks at the absurdity of trying to retrieve time and glory and dissects the notion of what it is to lose power but gain personal freedom in the transition from one identity to another.

Kathryn Hunter says: "When Paul gave me Simon Leys’ novella to read, I was immediately caught by the author's wit and playfulness. The story is not a serious historical proposition but a pretext to ask questions about how we live and what we regard as important in our lives.

"I'm so excited to be creating this adaptation with Paul and Ayesha. Paul is pure comic genius, whose seemingly infinite invention often leaves me speechless in rehearsal. Ayesha is a performer of huge depth, strength and versatility. Together they make a formidable pair and take us on an unforgettable journey."

Told By An Idiot's raison d'etre is to "explore the human condition through theatre that is bigger than life". "We acknowledge the artifice of performance and make no attempt to put reality on stage, but we inhabit the space between laughter and pain, which exists in the real world," says Paul.

York Press:

Kathryn Hunter directing rehearsals for Told By An Idiot's Napoleon Disrobed. Picture: Manuel Harlan

"Our work is rooted in the live event and thrives on a sense of spontaneity and risk, celebrating the unpredictability of performance. Through playful collaborative writing, anarchic physicality and a comedic sensibility, we create genuinely spontaneous experiences for audiences."

Whether with their work on stage or their participation work, Told By An Idiot foster a sense of openness, curiosity and the desire to play. "We consistently experiment with what art can be and who can be involved, and in doing so our work blurs the lines between artist, participant and audience," says Paul.

"Our commitment to accessibility informs the entwined relationship between our productions and our participation work. We take creative risks, tell universal stories and include everyone."

Napoleon Disrobed can be seen in the SJT's McCarthy auditorium on March 20, 21 and 23 at 7.45pm; March 22, 1.45pm and 7.15pm, and March 24, 2.45pm and 7.45pm. Box office: 01723 370542 or at sjt.uk.com