The Constant Wife

Original London West End Production with Fay Compton - 1927

1st West End Revival with Ruth Chatterton - 1937

London Revival with Marjorie Stewart - 1946

2nd West End Revival with Ingrid Bergman - 1973

3rd West End Revival with Jenny Seagrove - 2002


Set in the home of a general surgeon, John Middleton, in Harley Street, London. William Somerset Maugham's classic comedy The Constant Wife concerns the attempts of an apparently caring wife to stop her family and friends from telling her that her seemingly devoted husband is having an affair with her best friend Marie Louise. However the tables are turned when Constance decides to have a liaison with her former lover Bernard Kersal, who has recently returned from Japan.

Proud of his association with commercial theatre Maugham amused and diverted his audiences with good stories and a glittering sardonic wit, which made a permanent contribution to the English stage. The Constant Wife crossed all barriers of time and is as wickedly observant of the hypocritical attitudes of today as when it first shocked audiences and is arguably the funniest and most intriguing of Somerset Maugham's plays.


Original London West End Production - 1927

Opened 6 April 1927, Closed 28 May 1927 at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre)

The cast featured Fay Compton as Constance Middleton with Leon Quartermaine as 'John Middleton', Heather Thatcher as 'Marie-Louise Durham', Frederick Lloyd as 'Mortimer Durham', Mary Jerrold as 'Mrs Culver', Marda Vanne as 'Martha Culver', J Lister-Williams as 'Bentley', Evelyn Dane as 'Barbara Fawcett', Paul Cavanagh as 'Bernard Kersal'. Directed by Basil Dean.

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1st West End Revival - 1937

Opened 19 May 1937, Closed Saturday 19 June 1937 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)

The cast featured Ruth Chatterton as 'Constance Middleton' with Cecil Parker as 'John Middleton', Eileen Peel as 'Marie-Louise Durham', Walter Piers as 'Mortimer Durham', Helen Haye as 'Mrs Culver', Everley Gregg as 'Martha Culver', Victor Boggetti as 'Bentley', Dorothy Lane as 'Barbara Fawcett' and Cyril Raymond as 'Bernard Kersal'. Directed by Tyrone Guthrie.


London Revival - 1946

Opened 10 September 1946, Closed 6 October 1946 at the Arts Theatre

The cast featured Marjorie Stewart as 'Constance Middleton' with Wyndham Goldie as 'John Middleton', Joan Schofield as 'Marie Louise Durham', Philip Stainton as 'Mortimer Durham', Marjorie Battiss as 'Mrs. Culver', Hazel Hughes as 'Martha Culver', Leonard Brett as 'Bentley', Elizabeth Weston as 'Barbara Fawcett' and Richard Warner as 'Bernard Kersal'. Directed by Alec Clunes.


2nd West End Revival - 1973

Previewed 18 September 1973, Opened 19 September 1973, Closed 4 May 1974 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The cast featured Ingrid Bergman as 'Constance Middleton' with John McCallum as 'John Middleton', Barbara Ferris as 'Marie-Louise Durham', Charles Pemberton as 'Mortimer Durham', Dorothy Reynolds as 'Mrs Culver', Pauline Jameson as 'Martha Culver', John Hart Dyke as 'Bentley', Helen Christie as 'Barbara Fawcett', Michael Allinson as 'Bernard Kersal'. Directed by John Gielgud with sets by Alan Tagg, costumes by Beatrice Dawson and lighting by Joe Davis.


3rd West End Revival - 2002

Previewed 3 April 2002, Opened 11 April 2002, Closed 29 June 2002 at the Apollo Theatre
Transferred 2 July 2002, Closed 12 October 2002 at the Lyric Theatre

The cast featured Jenny Seagrove as 'Constance Middleton' with Steven Pacey as 'John Middleton', Sara Crowe as 'Marie-Louise Durham', Eric Carte as 'Mortimer Durham', Linda Thorson as 'Mrs Culver', Serena Evans as 'Martha Culver', Robin Browne as 'Bentley', Lucy Fleming as 'Barbara Fawcett' and Simon Williams as 'Bernard Kersal'. Directed by Edward Hall with designs by Michael Pavelka, lighting by Ben Ormerod and sound by Simon Whitehorn.

Edward Hall's West End credits include Shakespeare's Macbeth starring Sean Bean and Samantha Bond at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2002. Jenny Seagrove's West End credits include playing opposite Paula Wilcox in the title roles of Elijah Moshinsky's West End premiere of Neil Simon's The Femail Odd Couple at the Apollo Theatre in 2001; the role of 'Laura' in Roger Redfarn's production of Andrew Taylor's stage adaption of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter at the Lyric Theatre in 2000; Richard Harris' thriller Dead Guilty at the Apollo Theatre in 1995; and the title role of 'Annie Sullivan' in Richard Olivier's revival of William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 1994. Steven Pacey's London theatre credits include the role of 'Bertram (Bertie) Wooster' in the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn musical By Jeeves at the Duke Of York's Theatre in 1996. Sara Crowe's West End credits include Dames at Sea at the Ambasssadors Theatre in 1996.

"Jenny Seagrove doesn’t wholly answer the obvious criticism of Constance, which is that she’s pretty cold-blooded, but she has the necessary intelligence and calm self-assurance, as well as just enough sweetness and vulnerability to ensure we don’t just dismiss her, as her mother does in a moment of hilarious horror, as 'one of those feminists'... The problem is that in 2002 this isn’t so shocking a thing to suggest. That’s one reason why you may sometimes weary of Constance’s relentless logic as she deconstructs marriage, an institution now busy deconstructing itself. But Maugham had enough grasp of plot and character to keep us gripped too." The Times

"Constance, played with a worldly serenity by Jenny Seagrove, baffles both her feminist sister (Serena Evans) and her ferociously traditional mother (Linda Thorson). She neither hates her husband for his dalliance nor beats herself about it, deciding what's sauce for the gander ought to be sauce for the goose - and starts an affair of her own. A strong cast bickers wittily on a finely-dressed, single set, with a particularly nice comic cameo from Sara Crowe as Constance's bimbo best friend. Thoroughly entertaining, though undemanding." The Daily Express

"Somerset Maugham's excellent and rarely performed play The Constant Wife, written in 1927, provides a startlingly modern analysis of marriage and relationships. It is set in the upperclass world of the Twenties, a world where the older generation believed in fidelity for women and philandering for men. At its centre is Constance, a smart, clear-thinking woman played with a poise which combines English-rose prettiness with steely toughness by Jenny Seagrove. She has a different view and one which would, even today, raise eyebrows in some circles. She's a realist who believes married passion inevitably and naturally dwindles into companionship. That's why, in a marvellous scene where she is publicly told that her best friend Marie-Louise is having an affair with her husband, she fabricates a situation that lets them both off the hook. Furthermore, having made herself financially independent of her husband and so freed herself of her wifely obligation to provide sex in exchange for her keep, she goes off for six weeks of romance in Italy with the man who has worshipped her for decades... The play is full of witty epigrammatic flourishes. When her husband asks if he can become her lover, Constance retorts with chilling honesty: 'Nobody can make yesterday's cold mutton into tomorrow's lamb cutlets'... A well-performed, handsome, pacy revival which snaps and crackles deliciously." The Mail on Sunday

The Constant Wife in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 3 April 2002, opened on 11 April 2002 and closed on 29 June 2002, transferred to the Lyric Theatre from 2 July 2002 and closed on 12 October 2002