Saturday, 19 May 2012


The second play I saw this week was the very antithesis of ‘Cowboy Mouth': I switched from punk grunge to Restoration bawdiness when I took in The Univ Players’ take on ‘The Country Wife’. Written in 1675 it was banned until 1924, the lewdness and innuendo being considered too much for a respectable audience to swallow.

There are two interlocking threads to the tale: the adventures of Horner, a young blood, who  feigns impotence in order more easily to seduce women, and Mrs Margery Pinchwife – the eponymous ‘Country Wife’ who has come to London and is determined to sample all the delights the big, bad city has to offer.
I thought it a terrific production tho’ marred by being performed al fresco – it’s hard to concentrate on complex dialogue when you’re worried about incipient frostbite – which didn’t do the acoustic any favours either. Andrew Laithwaite was brilliant as Horner, with just the right amount of devilishness about him. Lazlo Barclay deserves a mention too: his Mr Sparkish was convincingly naïve. Kathryn Smith made a good fist of the tricky role of Mrs Margery Pinchwife tho’ I think she should have emphasised the yoke-lish aspect of the woman more: an actor can’t go too far over-the-top playing this character. Perhaps my favourite performance tho’ was Claire Rammelkamp’s Lady Fidget: she really nailed the ditziness of the woman and communicated better than any of the players an understanding of what it was like to be caught up in the sexual hysteria pervading Restoration London.

Criticisms? This was a play that was banned for almost 250 years … it’s bawdy and salacious but I had a feeling the actors (the girls especially, tho’ I exclude Ms Rammelkamp from this criticism) were much too PC in their approach, much too tentative. Their acting didn’t reflect the dialogue.
Still a commendable 8/10 (even if it was bloody cold!).

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