The Provok’d Wife is a farcical rollercoaster that plays with the age old battle of the sexes in a delightful way. Originally by John Vanbrugh and here in an adaptation by Bernie C Byrnes we watch as love, betrayal, and friendship slip in and out of the hearts of some very entertaining and larger than life characters.
We are seated around the stage as though we were intruders spying on the action of the play. Brought into the more modern setting of the 1960s the cast show us that there is a lot to restore in this restoration comedy and more importantly that they are the right team to do it.
The highlight of the show comes in the form of Emily Bates whose Lady Fancyful is a woman of such charisma and spice you can’t keep your eyes off her. Bates’ performance elicits such joy you feel like calling Mitchell and Webb and demanding they write a part for her. Every move is necessary and every sound from her demanding voice enchanting. When she is off stage you miss her but luckily there is a plethora of talent to keep your appetite wet.
Chris Born as Constant has that rare quality that suggests he belongs on stage. Like a mixture of Sam Claflin and George Harrison, his cheeky grin will charm the pants off you while you listen as he makes every line sound like the poetry it is.
Jacob Trenerry as Heartfree performs a soliloquy that was surprisingly one of the most moving parts of the show, Peter Easterbrook makes Sir John Brute’s character one you love to hate until you are made to hate him and Charles Leo Raine’s milkman almost steals the show.
This is such a brilliantly written play it made me wonder why it isn’t put on more often. Every character causes the other conflict making the action akin to a runaway horse and cart on fire. Alastair Callcutt directs with a razor sharp accuracy, treating his actors like pawns in a chess game and it is a treat to watch them move around each other with such precision.
It is a happy surprise to be reminded how interesting the question of love remains and an even happier one to have such a dazzling company asking you the question.