William Wycherley’s ‘The Country Wife’ is the second play by the Drama Society this semester, bringing the Autumn Season into full swing. Directed by Ella Dufton and Imogen Hayes, the raunchy restoration comedy follows the promiscuous Horner (Kwame Owusu) in his plan to seduce as many married women as possible by announcing that he is in fact, a eunuch! A hilarious tale of confusion and cuckolding ensues, and the cast do a wonderful job of ensuring that the audience fully understands the plot, despite the language it is written in.
For me, although all the cast were notable, Ottilie Nye (Lady Fidget), Elizabeth Key (Margery Pinchwife), and Charlie White (Sparkish) stood out above the rest with their attention to humour and ability to really go all out to make the audience laugh. Each of them inhabited their characters to the fullest and this made them the most dynamic to watch in any scene.
I found myself waiting for the moments when Lady Fidget would enter the stage; Nye’s performance opposite Owusu in the scene in which she crawls over him and almost gets caught in a compromising position by her husband, Sir Jasper Fidget (Cali Nice), had me in stitches! The comedic timing of all three is really what kept the momentum of the play going.
Another moment of hilarity came from Key when she appeared onstage holding a ridiculous amount of oranges, which she, of course, could not keep hold of and continuously dropped. The simplicity of the scene combined with Key’s expressive nature and delivery of dialogue had the whole audience in fits of laughter over such a silly concept! White’s portrayal of the drunken and energetic Sparkish provided constant laughs throughout the play and his over-enthusiastic nature kept me engaged even in scenes where he was not the main focus.
However, it has to be said that the flow of the piece was massively hindered by the scene transitions and the movement of set – with each set change bringing members of the cast onstage to slowly remove or add a seemingly heavy glass cabinet full of glasses and to add or remove the central set piece of a sofa. The music accompanying the transitions also didn’t seem to fit the world of the play that we, as an audience, had been invited into, meaning that each transition was quite jarring and prevented full immersion into the piece.
I admire the decision of the directors to modernise the piece and make it more accessible for a contemporary audience, however, it felt that some of the character’s traits had been shoe-horned into the play, such as Sir Jasper’s ‘vote leave’ badge, which bore little relevance to the plot or his character. I understand there was potentially a desire to make poking fun at the upper classes more politically relevant but here it just felt tokenistic with no real relevance.
Overall, I think the cast and creative team did amazingly well in handling such a difficult text! The humour that worked well was mainly down to the cast and I think there were moments when the direction perhaps could have drawn out more of the comedy within the text! I did, however, wholly enjoy the piece and left the play having laughed in abundance.