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The Country Wife review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘an awful lot of fun’

Joshua Hill, Leo Staar and Eddie Eyre in The Country Wife at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Darren Bell Joshua Hill, Leo Staar and Eddie Eyre in The Country Wife at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Darren Bell

From 1753 up until 1924, William Wycherly’s The Country Wife was deemed too scandalous to be performed, though by today’s standards, this Restoration comedy of partner-switching is pretty tame.

Luke Fredericks’ new production relocates the play in the Roaring Twenties, transforming it into a champagne-swilling, hedonistic farce.

Eddie Eyre and Joshua Hill bring a lot of swagger as playboys Harry Horner and Dorilant. But overwhelmingly this production belongs to the women. Siubhan Harrison makes the glamorous Alithea something of a Princess Margaret character, whilst Sarah Lam as Lady Fidget performs a dinner table orgasm scene to rival Meg Ryan’s iconic moment in When Harry Met Sally.

The costumes by Stewart Charlesworth are filled with delightfully delicate details, including the button-down back and rushed straps of Alithea’s wedding dress. Feathers, silk, crystals and embroidery appear repeatedly.

The ultra-dapper Bright Young Things dance between scenes to a soundtrack of remixed pop songs set to Jazz Age melodies. Britney Spears and Cyndi Lauper feature, along with Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne. At one point the ‘lads’ of the set do a syncopated boy band-style dance in the tennis club locker room.

Let’s be clear, this is very silly stuff – Carry On Downton, if you will. But despite being overly long, it’s an awful lot of fun, at best in its most thoroughly camp moments.

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1920s-set Restoration comedy that fizzes with the colour and kitsch of the flapper era