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).
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.
Overnight critics all made a point in their reviews of the production of enthusiastically welcoming the Haymarket’s “bold” and “valuable” new West End initiative, which they felt has been launched “with a bang”. As for The Country Wife specifically, if some critics worried that it’s played here “slightly over-strenuously” for laughs, none could ultimately deny the “irresistible comic momentum” of this “crowd-pleasing bawdy romp” which is cast “to the hilt” with the best of British stage talent.
- by Terri Paddock & Tom Atkins