you fancy a trip back to the fashionable London of Restoration England
where wealthy young gentlemen drank in "chocolate houses"
while trading gossip? If the answer is yes, the Oxford Theatre Guild's
production of William Congreve's "The Way of the World"
offers a perfect opportunity.
during the reign of Charles II were filled with new audiences demanding
a fresh style of performance and Congreve duly gave them the most
celebrated example of "Restoration Comedy", an early attempt
at a more intellectual style of humour. When Congreve penned "The
Way of the World" in 1700 the majority of London's Elizabethan
theatres has closed and with them went the boy actors as women were
now allowed to play female roles.
to BBC Oxford's Tim Bearder talking to the director Polly
Polly Mountain, has stamped her authority on this new production
with some inspired direction, as although Congreve's prose is superbly
crafted, the discourse and plot require skilful interpretation to
appeal to a 21st century audience.
navigated our way through a minefield of gossip, intrigue and love
versus duty, the play comes to life with the interaction between
Barbara Denton's Lady Wishfort and Cathy Oakes' Foible. I was reminded
of Liz Taylor's performance in the film of "Who's Afraid of
Virginia Wolfe" as her ladyship cries out "go you thing"
to her servant whilst clutching a bottle of cherry brandy! Yes you
guessed it, class and social tensions are highlighted throughout
and in particular when the rough country squire played by Peter
Mottley arrives in trendy London.
also mention Jason Tomes who gives the character of Mr Petulant
considerable edge exclaiming "if throats are to be cut, let
swords clash". I won't spoil it by telling you if throats are
cut over the heroine Millimant played by feisty student Tegan Shohet.
Simon Vail's Mr Witwoud was also well portrayed if occasionally
drawing on the camp humour of John Inman and Julian Clary.
was described as a master of illustrating feminine psychology but
sadly the reaction to this play's morality made it his last. He
went on to suffer the irony of being killed by a carriage while
in the post of "Commissioner for Licensing Hackney Carriages"!