The West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket, traditionally a commercial receiving house, launched its major new initiative – a season of work produced under its own flag, initially under the artistic direction of former Almeida chief Jonathan Kent – last night (9 October 2007, previews from 27 September) with Kent’s production of William Wycherley’s 1675 classic The Country Wife (See Also Today’s News, 9 Jul 2007).

The Restoration comedy revolves around notorious man-about-town Horner who schemes to seduce the women of London society en masse by spreading a rumour that he’s impotent. Meanwhile, the newly-married Pinchwife desperately attempts to keep his naïve country bride from the clutches of predatory London bachelors. When she and Horner meet, events spiral out of his control...

Toby Stephens stars as Horner in a cast that also features David Haig (as Pinchwife), Fiona Glascott (Margery Pinchwife, the country wife of the title), Patricia Hodge (Lady Fidget), Liz Crowther (Mrs Squeamish), Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh (Ms Alithea), Nicolas Day (Sir Jasper Fidget) and Jo Stone-Fewings (Sparkish) as well as Catherine Bailey (Lucy), Timothy Bateson (Boy), Tristan Beint (Dorilant), Janet Brown (Old Lady Squeamish), John Hopkins (Harcourt), David Shaw-Parker (Quack) and Lucy Tregear (Dainty Fidget).

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For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for The Country Wife curtain call at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the post-show party at Mint Leaf along with the company, director Jonathan Kent, producer and theatre owner Arnold M Crook and other first night guests including Dame Judi Dench, Richard Eyre, Trudie Goodwin (TV’s The Bill) and Aidan Gillen, popping in after his own performance in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Apollo Theatre.

The Country Wife runs until 12 January 2008. The Haymarket’s inaugural season then continues with a revival of Edward Bond’s The Sea (17 January to 19 April 2008) and the world premiere of Boublil and Schonberg musical Marguerite (6 May to 1 November 2008). All of the production are directed by Jonathan Kent and designed by Paul Brown, with lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.

- by Terri Paddock