The Country Wife Is A Lovely, Lively Twenties Farce
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In 1675, William Wycherley’s The Country Wife boldly satirised marriage in the style of Molière where all men are philanderers but women are expected to be faithful.
The plot’s fun: you’re the randiest git in London and spread the rumour you’re impotent to encourage husbands to trust their wives in your company: in turn the wives queue up to ride you to exhaustion but still return to the husbands who control the purse-strings.
Luke Frederick’s production for Morphic Graffiti shifts the time to the Roaring Twenties when, emboldened by Marie Stopes’ freshly-published advice, women made more of their sexual opportunities. He dresses — or undresses — it with buff bodies, lush costumes, superb jazz-danced scene changes to ragtime versions of contemporary pop, and a gorgeous but busy lighting plot by rising spark Sam Waddington.
Cutting and pasting the wordy script and pointing every third laugh line with a lighting change may not have shortened The Country Wife by much, but it does shift the focus and new highlights include Daniel Cane, riotous as the witless fop Sparkish, and a When Harry Met Sally solo moment for Sarah Lam as Lady Fidget which brings act one to an undeniable climax.
This makes for a lovely, lively twenties farce, delivered with style and class, but robs the original of some of its shocking impact. If the production has a feminist point to make, here is where it is lost.
The Country Wife, Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, SE1, until 11 April 2018.
Last Updated 06 April 2018