An interesting piece by James Shirley in the Lost Classics programme. First produced in 1635 at Drury lane it had a short run that winter before bubonic plague and then the puritans of the Commonwealth closed theatres for nearly 20 years.
Rarely played, and rarely seen since, it is a comedy of manners that deals with boredom, and its relief through infidelity and sexual gratification for those of a certain class, namely the aristocracy; in this case the frustrations and machinations of Lady Bornwell, who, in the hands of the accomplished Sally Mortemore, comes across as a frustrated and deluded lady whose 'Damascus' moment is brilliantly handled, finely balancing deviousness with an inner repentance as she comes to terms with her actions, yet determines to keep them a secret from others by bribing her 'lover' Kickshaw into silence.
Staged in-the-round and a simple set of a chaise longue-style sofa and a leather bucket-shaped swivel chair, the director David Cottis has updated the setting to London in the swinging sixties, and for the most part it works; although the male costumes are a little too staid and drab for the dandyesqueness that is really required for the foppish followers of fashion, Haircut, and the two clownish suitors Littleworth and Kickshaw, the latter seeming to present more menace than manners; where were the kaftans and colour?
Jonathon Rigby’s performance as the put upon husband is warm and witty, and his gamesmanship, in bringing his wife back from her excesses is perfectly pitched with genuine warmth and affection and an understanding of her predicament that allows him to censure her with wry humour. His liaison with Celestina the young widow, a strong performance by Elizabeth Donnelly, allows for the parallels between controlled and uncontrolled emotions to be clearly seen; her pursuit of the lovesick lord mourning for his lost love is intriguing and she finally wins him on her terms; this subplot serves directly contrast her personal code of morality and behaviour, based on high ideals, with Lady B’s lasciviousness.
Evadne Rickets’ bawd, Madam Decoy is a great piece of character acting and the night scene when she seduces Kickshaw in the guise of an old hag is truly shocking and disturbing. However it is Tom Hurley’s character Frederick that lingers long in the memory as he is transformed from a staid bookish student to an outrageous fop, having been taken in hand by his aunt and her accomplices.