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David Scotland

Review: THE PROVOKED WIFE at The Hope Theatre

The Provoked Wife Restoration Comedy is not usually a ‘go to’ genre for a young theatre company but that is exactly the nature of the latest production by Marooned Theatre. John Vanbrugh wrote The Provoked Wife in 1697 but this staging, currently playing at the Hope Theatre in Islington, drags the play into the 21st Century by setting it at a modern day music festival. The result is not dissimilar to seeing an episode of Made in Chelsea reenacted on stage.

The play depicts the loveless and bitter marriage of Sir John and Lady Brute. When a young man named Constant reveals his hidden affection for Lady Brute, she jumps at the chance to conduct an affair under her husband's nose. Given the volatile nature of her spouse, it is agreed by both parties that Sir John must not uncover their betrayal and the subsequent cover up results in Lady Brute’s relative Belinda and Constant’s faithful friend Heartfree both being drawn into the mess. Throw in the spiteful Lady Fanciful who finds out everything that is going on and has vendettas against everyone and Made in Chelsea doesn't seem as distant in circumstance as it is in time passed since the play was written..

Director Hannah Boland Moore embraces the present day setting by encouraging her actors to speak their lines with modern day delivery despite the fact that they are remaining faithful to the original text. Her young cast give a solid performance. Will Heale and Will Kelly are particularly engaging as Constant and Sir John Brute respectively and Jessica Lilley’s Lady Fanciful gives more than a nod to Jennifer Saunder’s Absolutely Fabulous.

Some parts of the original text are a better fit for modern comedy than others. Talk of striking wives and taking whores is a little more Game of Thrones than Made in Chelsea and doesn't translate well into today's humour. However, despite occasional jarring moments, the updated setting serves the play well.

The Provoked Wife is advertised with the tag line: ‘Restoration for a new generation’. The cast and creative team have certainly succeeded in making a 300 year old play accessible for a millennial audience. However, disappointing as it is, the production doesn’t do quite enough to replace Made in Chelsea and company as the popular entertainment format of 2017.

The Provoked Wife runs at the Hope Theatre until 23rd September