Review: The Country Wife, Southwark Playhouse

Visually striking, an anarchic take on The Country Wife at the Southwark Playhouse

“Write as I bid you, or I will write ‘whore’ on your face”

A swift run through The Country Wife as it is finishing its residency at the Southwark Playhouse this weekend and I’m not too sure I got on with it all too well. Luke Fredericks’ vibrant production for Morphic Graffiti certainly has a muscular visual appeal but I’m not convinced it offers a case for a revival of William Wycherley’s play.

Originally a Restoration comedy, it has been updated to the world of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s. And in it, randy upper class people chase other randy upper class people and… well, that’s about it. Whether through the shift in era or something more deliberate, the women of the story find themselves front and centre, particularly pleasing as it is about them asserting their sexuality.

That’s not Fredericks’ only innovation. The production is suffused with song and dance, jazz-age covers of pop staples pepper the many many scene changes and whilst effective in establishing the DNA of this revival and its considerable energy, it also has the effect of sapping its pace increasingly fatally.

It also suggests a slight lack of faith in the material. Not being familiar with the play, I can’t say what comes from writer or director, but there’s enough to suggest that Wycherley was already pushing the envelope here.  Still, boldness of vision is never too much of a bad thing and the performances are most certainly engaging enough.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Darren Bell
The Country Wife is booking at the Southwark Playhouse until 21st April

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