Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Provoked Wife

"Why, what did I vow? I think I promis'd to be true to my husband.
  Well; and he promis'd to be kind to me.
  But he hasn't kept his word.
  Why then I'm absolved from mine... ay, that seems clear to me."

                                       - Lady Brute

And so to the theatre. I have been to Stratford-upon-Avon, a trip that was actually motivated by nuclear physics and corporate finance rather than by Shakespeare. However, I took time out to visit the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre for the first time. I was suitably impressed both by the building and by the play, Vanburgh's 'The Provoked Wife'. The piece was pitched in the publicity as being a Restoration romp, but the comedy is very much underpinned with misery and sadness.

As my trip was arranged at short notice I knew nothing of the cast and was somewhat surprised to see familiar faces: Caroline Quentin and Rufus Hound, both of whom were excellent, as well as Les Dennis, who was woefully underused. I saw him in Priestley's 'When We Are Married' some years ago so I know that he can act, but here he was more like a stage hand in a wig. Anyway, I both laughed a lot and also found myself wishing that it had been at least half an hour shorter. A final word on Sir John Vanburgh, one of those intensely annoying people who are multi-talented. After writing this play and 'The Relapse', both of which were very successful, he gave up the theatre, took up architecture and designed both Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace, both of which are very beautiful. He was also Clarenceux King of Arms for twenty years or so. As I say, very annoying.

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