Two mannequins dressed Restoration style adorn the stage at the start of this production of William Wycherley’s 1675 play. The dummies are a nice nod to the original, as Morphic Graffiti’s Luke Fredericks and Stewart Charlesworth move this story of cuckoldry into the 1920s. Charlesworth’s costumes make it all look gorgeous and the stage is filled with a cast of bright things, young and old. A larger aim, to make the piece feel relevant, may fail, but this is a well-performed and spirited effort.
Anti-hero Harry Horner poses as a eunuch to abuse women (it’s explained… kind of). Eddie Eyre, who takes the role, deserves a lot of credit for making this misogynist who “hates women perfectly” tolerable. Richard Clews, Sam Graham and, conspicuously, Daniel Cane play a trio of fools about to be betrayed and there’s enough humour in their delivery to get over a lot of unpleasant behaviour… although it’s a close call. Special effort is made to balance the sexes, almost despite the text itself. As the titular character, notable for her stupidity as much as her honesty, Nancy Sullivan does a good job, while on the other side of the town/country divide Siubhan Harrison is a suitably sophisticated girl about town. There are problems with the rhythm of the lines – some actors become stuck and the resulting delivery is monotonous. But the cast does well with the wit and raillery – which are great fun – and the theatrical asides (bravo to lighting designer Sam Waddington).
The adaptation itself is credible. With his direction, Frederick shows a keen appreciation of the comedy. There are fake orgasms aplenty and more than enough innuendo, but the production seems to labour under the impression that the audience is unaware that Restoration comedy can be bawdy. Crude touches fail to shock and too many jazz cover versions of contemporary numbers slow down the action. The result is a theatrical climax that doesn’t come soon enough. The impression is of a production that’s a little desperate and lacks confidence in the play itself. It’s a shame, given the talent and effort behind it all.
Until 21 April 2018