Review: The Country Wife, Minerva

A cracking cast can’t quite make sense of a modern updating of The Country Wife at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre

“What is wit in a wife good for, but to make a man a cuckold?”

How many productions does it take for a playwright to have a moment? We could be on the cusp of a Wycherley wave, with the second production of The Country Wife to arrive this year (the first being at the Southwark Playhouse in April). 

But though this Restoration writer is proving popular, directors seem unable not to tinker with his work – that production was set in the 1920s and Jonathan Munby here moves it even further to the present day, casting new light but also dimming its intent.

The main pleasure here comes in a cracking cast. Susannah Fielding and Lex Shrapnel, Belinda Lang and John Hodgkinson, Ashley Zhangazha and Jo Herbert, talent literally abounds here and it is impossible not to appreciate it on most levels. 

But the updating makes little real sense for a modern London, even as its misogyny still has a soul-wearying resonance. Munby pushes his company to an overly loud, broad and bawdy style which never convinces and if anything, harks back to the 1675 that was abandoned in the relocation.  

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes 
Photos: Manuel Harlan
The Country Wife is booking at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester until 7th July

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