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Review of The Provoked Wife at The Hope Theatre

The Provoked Wife - Photo credit Toby Lee
The Provoked Wife – Photo credit Toby Lee

When I think about restoration comedy I think, bawdy humour, comedy of manners, commentary on 17th-century society, usually exposing the affluent and upper classes of society. I think wigs, fanciful large costumes, pink cheeks and lots of ooh, errs and innuendo; dated comedy but very funny if performed well.

I’ve seen and read a lot restoration (both French and English) but I had not come across John Vanbrugh’s masterpiece, so on hearing that Marooned Theatre and Anita Creed Productions were transferring their production of Vanbrugh’s The Provoked wife to the Hope Theatre (following a weeks at the White Bear) I thought I would check it out. I do love a bit of innuendo. I’ve also never visited the charming venue that is the Hope Theatre in Highbury and Islington.

The production promised “Restoration for a new generation”, a contemporary production set in a music festival – I was praying the wit, obscenity and licentious text still worked and still posed relevance. Well, they were right, this production is fantastic, the cast were on fire when I went along on Press Night, they were continually raising their game through out the 95-minute production (110 mins including a short interval) and I can’t recommend this piece highly enough.

In the interval I decided to rename the production, Made in Chelsea go to Glastonbury; hopefully, this reference gives you some idea of how the production unfolds and how the characterisation transcends with ease into 2017 as if the play could have been written in the last 20 years rather than 1697!

The black box space at The Hope lends well to this production and its staging, providing 2 exit/entrances for the cast, giving a touch of “merry go round” about them and their exploits. The stage design is simple, a tent effect is given to the ceiling and a corner of the stage is cornered off for later scenes (no spoilers here).

The lighting and sound effects are brilliant, Hannah Boland Moore, who has direct the piece has selected a soundtrack of uplifting, popular dance tracks that echo the production beautifully.

Talented director Boland Moore has secured an ensemble who work together beautifully, have amazing chemistry and are able to bring their characters to life in front of our eyes.

The props are minimal in the production, generally, it’s booze; posh champagne, red wine and gin, a beautiful cheese board of Brie and camping attire that one would expect an affluent man or lady about town to take to a major music festival. All of these simple props give an extra level to the piece and help drive characterisation.

The whole cast is superb, however, I cannot go on without mentioning the tour de force that is Jessie Lilley. This lady has taken on the role of Lady Fanciful, a role that is not for the shy! Her execution is faultless. Her performance is worth buying a ticket by itself. However, everyone really does deserve praise, regardless of how big their onstage parts are, the performance level was outstanding and really received well by the audience.

Please go get a ticket for this show, you will not be disappointed. I also challenge you to not laugh at the scenes that feature Tim Gibson, (Heartfree) Will Heale (Constant) and Will Kelly (Sir John Bruce). Their banter is fabulous, funny and I really do feel I could be watching a scripted reality show such as Made in Chelsea.

Maybe it’s true, maybe the old plays are the best, they just need to find their place in today’s society.

5 Star Rating

Review by Faye Stockley

“Marriage is a slippery thing…”
Sir John Brute has only been married two years and he’s already sick of it; nothing but drinking can ease the burden. The marriage is equally tedious for his wife, Lady Brute.

Temptation arrives in the form of a young man and Lady Brute decides to liven up her love life. But when the scheming Lady Fanciful gets wind of it, she means to expose the scandal no matter the cost. Champagne is popped and secret loves revealed, but whether all will end happily is anyone’s guess. Vanbrugh’s 1697 comedy is relocated to a modern music festival in where revellers drink, dance and get up to mischief.

The Provoked Wife comes to The Hope Theatre after a sell-out summer run. This is Restoration for a new generation.

The Provoked Wife
5 – 23 Sept 2017


  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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