Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Opened 19 April, 2001; reviewed September, 2001

** Hard to care enough about this comedy to follow its plot

Tim Supple has a taste for directing classic comedies seriously, but here he also leaves every other aspect too flat to draw us in.

There are too many strands of plot in William Wycherley's first Restoration comedy to recount them: suffice to say that everyone is in disguise and/or playing a stratagem, pretending to be in love with someone other than their true amour or trying to misdirect a friend in order to take suspicion off themselves. There are wigs, masks, and both the frills of seventeenth-century fashion and the squalor too frequently beneath.

Much of the action takes place in St James's Park the wood of the title a favourite spot for nocturnal assignations. But Supple's production and Sue Willmington's design leave the action adrift on a bare stage; we never acquire a sense of place. Nor one of class, in a play where at least two of the plot lines involve gentry mixing with "trade".

It is often useful advice that the way to succeed with a comedy is for all the actors to play it as if they absolutely believed it and took it entirely seriously. This, though, is supposed to draw out an intensity of performance which raises laughs. Supple's cast have the earnestness but lack the frenzy; it simply does too little to persuade us that we should be paying attention to it.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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