Stratford Upon Avon
The Provoked Wife: John Vanbrugh
RSC, The Swan
Runs: 3h.15m, one interval, Stratford till 7TH September 2019
Box Office: 01789331111
Review: Rod Dungate, 18th May 2019
Restoration plays, Comedy of Manners plays, are notoriously difficult to bring off. But Phillip Breen and his team achieve it; their production shows Vanbrugh’s play to be a careful and detailed examination of love, marriage, duty, responsibility. And with built-in laughter.
This current reading may or may not be Vanbrugh’s original intention for it is seen though our 21st Century eyes. But it feels both true to him and true to us, today. The production is a glorious achievement. Phillip Breen directs with knowledge, intelligence, and whit.
The production is not always easy going; Vanbrugh gives each of his broad range of characters opportunities to express their views; these result in fascinating debates, and, together, build to Vanbrugh’s debate. It is a strong acting company, many actors making welcome returns to Stratford.
Alexandra Gilbreath is Lady Brute, portraying with great skill the turmoil of a woman trapped in a horrid marriage to a vile Sir John Brute, a brutish Jonathan Slinger. Lady Brute’s eye lights upon Constant, played by Rufus Hound; he plays with gentle humour and extraordinary warmth, drawing us into his world. Constant is Partnered by Heartfree, John Hodgkinson in great comedic form. Lady Brute’s niece, Bellinda is drawn into the turmoil, a feisty young woman in Bellinda Dew’s performance.
Much humour is drawn from Vanbrugh’s replacement fop, Lady Fancyfull; Caroline Quentin in great form swooping and whooping around the acting space much to our delight.
If you are happy to give yourself up to this detailed discussion much pleasure awaits you. The Provoked Wife is a bit of a rarity but the rewards to be gained are well worth the effort.
Sir John Brute: Jonathan Slinger
Lady Brute: Alexandra Gilbreath
Belinda: Natalie Dew
Razor: Steve Nicholson
Lovewell: Polly Edsell
Constant: Rufus Hound
Heartfree: John Hodgkinson
Lord Rake: Carl Prekopp
Colonel Bully: Les Dennis
Lady Fancyfull: Caroline Quentin
Cornet: Isabel Adomako Young
Treble: Tony Webster
Tailre: Nicolia King-N’da
Watch: Ben Roddy
Constable: Alison Halstead
Justice of the Peace: Kevin N Golding
Porter: Pete Ashmore
Sevants: Pete Ashmore, Ben Roddy
Director: Phillip Breen
Designer: Maark Bailey
Lighting Designer: Tina MacHugh
Composer: Paddy Cunneen
Sound Designer: Dyfan Jones
Movement Director: Ayse Tashkiran
Fight Director: Renny Krupinsky
Company Voice and Txt Work: Kate Godfrey
Assistant Director: Noah Wagner
Casting Director: Helena Palmer
Production Photo: Pete LeMay