If you had to watch just one Restoration comedy, it could be argued that William Wycherley’s bawdy concoction of sexual machinations, misunderstandings and gender politics should be it. As more than three centuries after it first titillated and shocked English society, The Country Wife holds up well as both a reflection of the times it was written in and as an enjoyable romp in its own right. And if you had to see just one production of The Country Wife, you need look no further than this full-throttled revival, which punches up the dirty jokes and moves at a suitably frenetic pace, nailing the devilishly amoral tone and mischievous sensibilities of its roguish protagonist.
As the scheming, impotence-feigning Mr Horner, Felix Scott delivers Wycherley’s undulant dialogue like a prize fighter dancing around an opponent, imbuing the callous womaniser with a surprising amount of charm. Nick Fletcher too manages to breathe a believable humanity into his role as the monstrous Pinchwich, who would prefer to see his new wife (Amy Morgan, channelling the Welsh contingent of Gavin and Stacey to amusing affect as Margery) locked up rather than carousing with the local popinjays.
Director Polly Findlay is also unafraid to take on the misogyny and violence that lurks in the darker corners of the play, with Pinchwife making good on his promise to skewer Margery’s pet squirrel while threatening to do similarly unforgivable things to her face. While, with the dusty wigs and threadbare furnishings, designer Helen Goddard also palpably conjures up the period’s decadence and decay, where the booze is - quite literally - on tap, with faucets providing the claret stuff spouting up from the floor.