facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen. #IMissTheatre

The Country Wife

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

I am not sure whether William Wycherley laid the groundwork for comedy characters in years to come, or whether Jonathan Kent's revival of classic Restoration comedy The Country Wife is flavoured by some of television's most memorable, but the stage of the Theatre Royal Haymarket was reminiscent of many a sitcom at yesterday's press night, writes Matthew Amer.

Wycherley's gloriously lewd tale follows Horner, a man with a plan to wheedle his way into the beds of as many women as possible without being suspected. He simply spreads the rumour that he is impotent and watches as the gullible men of the town bring their wives and sisters directly to him to keep them occupied; after all, there is no way he can cuckold them, is there?

The loveable scallywag is played by Toby Stephens – introduced to the audience in his birthday suit, preceded by the fanfare of a mooing cow – with more than a hint of Blackadder favourite Lord Flashheart; a bold, fast-talking, swaggering braggart, loved for his audaciousness. He really is as slimy as Piers Morgan covered in pond weed, but you can't help but love his deliberately adulterous ways.

The Country Wife of the title is the new spouse of David Haig's Pinchwife, a man who knows the way of townsmen only too well and will not let his new wife fall into their salacious trap. Instead he keeps her under lock and key and disciplines the over-excitable, childish Yorkshire lass (think Bubble from Ab Fab) as a pet. Haig delivers a manic, jealous, panicked, grumpy performance as Pinchwife, reminiscent of his role in the Elton/Atkinson comedy The Thin Blue Line.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket's inaugural season's Artistic Director Jonathan Kent has assembled a remarkably strong ensemble cast, which stays together following this production to perform Edward Bond's The Sea. Jo Stone-Fewings camps it up as blundering dolt Sparkish, John Hopkins delivers a more subtle comedy performance, lending Harcourt a touch more realism than many of the characters, while Patricia Hodge, Liz Crowther and Lucy Tregear shed their prim and proper façades to become lustful wenches in Horner's presence.

Designer Paul Brown has created a fabulously lurid 'anytime' in which the sexual shenanigans play out, full of bustiers, long swishing coats and colours so bright they should really be viewed through protective sunglasses. It helps to check reality in at the cloakroom to enjoy this fantastically over the top sexual misadventure. em>MA


Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.