The London Cuckolds

  • Date:
    Saturday, February 21, 1998

    Terry Johnson, writer of Dead Funny and "Hysteria" directs his own new adaptation of the Restoration comedy "The London Cuckolds". Written in 1681 by Edward Ravenscroft, this is a fine comedy farce that is brilliantly produced by the Royal National Theatre.

    The story concerns three farcical husbands who argue about what makes the best type of wife. One of the men has a god-fearing wife whom he thinks prays and goes to church. Another of the men believes he has a wife of 'wit', which he considers being the best type of wife. Finally, the third husband believes a 'simple' wife is best, and thus adopts his orphaned niece at a young age and protects her from the vice and influences of London life. Now she has grown up he intends marrying her, and teaching her how to treat a husband. However, what two of the husbands do not know is that their wives are not all what they seem, and the third husband's wife's innocence is in danger of being corrupted! Confusion, mishap and farce are the ingredients as 'Ned Ramble, a handsome dissolute man in fashionable society is tempted by all three of the men's wives and tries to get them into bed. And while he is successful in getting in to their homes, all does not go smoothly in getting them into their beds!

    There are some great performances by all. Ben Miles is marvellous as the luckless rake 'Ned Ramble'. He has great comic timing and energy, and glorious facial features as he stumbles from one piece of bad luck to another. The three husbands are played almost to perfection; Robin Soans as 'Wiseacres', Anthony O'Donnell as ' Doodle' and William Chubb as 'Dashwell'. So too are the wives; Kelly Reilly as 'Peggy' the bride to Wiseacres, who is innocent and country-bred; Sharon Small as 'Eugenia', the wife of Dashwell, who pretends to go to church; Charon Bourke (standing in for Caroline Quentin, who is ill), as 'Arabella', wife of Doodle, a pretender to wit! The entertainment is splendidly enhanced by Nigel Lindsay as 'Frank Townly', a friend of Ned's who succeeds with the women where Ned fails, and Alexander Hanson as 'Valentine Loveday' the former lover of 'Eugenia'. Also, one must not forget the delightful performance of Hilda Braid, playing Peggy's Aunt.

    The set design by William Dudley is charming. It is deliberately built to represent a stage with balconies on the side and a curtain at the back. However, this changes to the inside of the houses and then transforms at ease to the outside of the same houses. It beautifully captures the mood and atmosphere of a restoration comedy, an atmosphere that is enhanced by the music of Roderick Skeaping.

    Lasting 3 hours, this is an engaging, vulgar and very funny farce that will warm your heart. Go see it now!

    (Darren Dalglish)

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