The Country Wife

Comedy by William Wycherley. One of the greatest and funniest comedies of the Restoration, William Wycherley's The Country Wife tells the story of Horner, a notorious and lascivious man-about-town and his ingenious scheme for the rampant and mass seduction of the women of London society. By spreading the false rumour of his own impotence, he gains the sympathy of the husbands of the town and, more importantly, free access to their wives. Meanwhile the newly-married Pinchwife desperately attempts to keep his na´ve country bride from the clutches of predatory London bachelors. When she and Horner meet, events spiral out of his control...

1934: West End London Revival with Baliol Holloway and Lesley Wareing

1936: West End London Revival with Michael Redgrave and Ruth Gordon

1940: West End London Revival with Alec Clunes and Hermione Baddeley

1957: West End London Revival with Laurence Harvey/Terence Morgan and Joan Plowright

1977: London Revival with Albert Finney and Susan Littler

1990: London Revival with John Moulder Brown and Kerry Higgins

1993: LUST THE MUSICAL with Denis Lawson

1994: London Revival with Jeremy Northam and Debra Gillett

2007: West End London Revival with Toby Stephens and Fiona Glascott

William Wycherley's The Country Wife premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in January 1675, and was revived a number of times over the following years, but by the mid-1750s it was considered too bawdy to be performed. The comedy was then 'rediscovered' for the stage in the 1920s by the actor/director Allan Wade, a co-founder of the Phoenix Society.

In London between around 1890 to 1930 a number of play-producing socities sprung up to present plays that where though to have more of an artistic value rather than a commercial value, this included many of the plays coming out of Scandinavia at the time, as well as plays that would not be licensed by the Lord Chamerlain as being appropriate for public performance. The Phoenix Society was established in 1919 to present the work of the early English dramatists. Performances, which where given by professional actors, where usually held on a Sunday evening, followed by an afternoon matinee on the Monday.

It was for the Phoenix Society that Allan Wade directed the The Country Wife at the now demolished Regent's Theatre in King's Cross for two performances on Sunday 17 and Monday 18 February 1924 - reputedly the play's first performace on the stage for 171 years. The cast included Baliol Holloway as 'Mr Horner', Isabel Jeans as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', and Athene Seyler as 'Lady Fidget'. Three years later Allan Wade directed the next London revival at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead from Saturday 11 December 1926 to Saturday 1 January 1927 with Isabel Jeans and Athene Seyler reprising their roles as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife' and 'Lady Fidget', this time joined by Philip Desborough as 'Mr Horner'.

The first West End revival of the 20th Century took place eight years later at the Ambassadors Theatre, playing for a total of 179 performances, this was also the longest continuously running revival of The Country Wife in London in modern times.


1934: West End London Revival with Baliol Holloway and Lesley Wareing

Opened 2 March 1934 (no previews), Closed 21 July 1934 at the Ambassadors Theatre

The cast featured Baliol Holloway as 'Mr Horner', George Carr as 'A Quack', Lesley Wareing as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Edmund Willard as 'Mr Pinchwife', Valentine Rooke as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Agnes Lauchlan as 'Lady Fidget', Pamela Stanley as 'Dainty Fidget', Helen Horsey as 'Mrs Squeamish', John Laurie as 'Mr Sparkish', Margaretta Scott as 'Alithea Pinchwife', John Cheatle as 'Mr Harcourt', Philip Desborough as 'Mr Dorilant', Rita Trekelle as 'Old Lady Squeamish', and Diana Churchill as 'Lucy', with Paul Kolesar, and Peter Penrose.

Directed by Baliol Holloway, with sets by Alick Johnstone, and costumes by John Gower Parks.

Initially this production played ten-performances-a-week, twice daily Tuesday to Saturday afternoon matinees and evenings. During May 1934 the afternoon matinee performances where progressively decreased, with a Monday evening performance introduced, thus for the last two months it played an eight-performances-a-week schedule of Monday to Saturday evenings, and Tuesday and Friday afternoon matinees.

Playing for a total of 179 performances, this is the longest continuously running revival of The Country Wife in London in modern times.

During the run there where a couple of cast changes, the most notable being George Grossman Jr taking over from Baliol Holloway as 'Mr Horner' from Saturday 31 March 1934 through to the end of the run (during May 1934 Paul Farrell played the role at the midweek afternoon matinee performances; and Athene Seyler who took over as 'Lady Fidget' from Thursday 24 May 1934 through to the end of the run. Interestingly Athene Seyler was reprising the same role she had played twice before in outer London: In Allan Wade's revival at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead in 1926; and in Allan Wade's revival for the Phoenix Society at the now demolished Regent's Theatre in King's Cross in 1924.


1936: West End London Revival with Michael Redgrave and Ruth Gordon

Opened 6 October 1936 (no previews), Closed 7 November 1936 at the Old Vic Theatre

The cast featured Michael Redgrave as 'Mr Homer', Frederick Bennett as 'A Quack', Ruth Gordon as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', James Dale as 'Mr Pinchwife', Richard Goolden as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Edith Evans as 'Lady Fidget', Iris Hoey as 'Dainty Fidget', Eileen Peel as 'Mrs Squeamish', Ernest Thesiger as 'Mr Sparkish', Ursula Jeans as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Alec Clunes as 'Mr Harcourt', Patrick Barr as 'Mr Dorilant', Kate Cutler as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Freda Jackson as 'Lucy', Basil Coleman as 'A Parson', and Michael Kennedy as 'A Boy'.

Directed by Tyrone Guthrie, with designs by Oliver Messel.

Presented by the Old Vic Theatre Company.

This production, completely recast except for Ruth Gordon playing 'Mrs Pinchwife', transferred to New York's Henry Miller's Theatre on Broadway from 1 December 1936 for a two month run.


1940: West End London Revival with Alec Clunes and Hermione Baddeley

Opened 9 April 1940 (no previews), Closed 27 April 1940 at the Little Theatre (no demolished)

The cast featured Alec Clunes as 'Mr Horner', Bernard Miles as 'A Quack', Hermione Baddeley as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Charles Victor as 'Mr Pinchwife', George Benson as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Agnes Lauchlan as 'Lady Fidget', Peggy Thorpe-Bates as 'Dainty Fidget', Chattie Salaman as 'Mrs Squeamish', Max Adrian as 'Mr Sparkish', Ursula Jeans as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Alan Sykes as 'Mr Harcourt', Laurier Lister as 'Mr Dorilant', Ella Miln as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Vida Hope as 'Lucy', and Michael Allinson as 'A Servant'.

Directed by Miles Malleson, with designs by Philip Gough.

The 371-seater Little Theatre at Adelphi was located in a converted banking hall on the north side of John Street, now John Adam Street. An office block named 'Adelphi' now covers the area that included the theatre.


1957: West End London Revival with Laurence Harvey/Terence Morgan and Joan Plowright

Opened 12 December 1956 (no previews), Closed 2 February 1957 at the Court Theatre (now Royal Court Theatre)
Trnsferred 4 February 1957, Closed 13 April 1957 at the Adelphi Theatre
Transferred 15 April 1957, Closed 11 May 1957 at the Chelsea Palace Theatre (now demolished)

The original cast at London's Court Theatre and the West End's Adelphi Theatre featured Laurence Harvey as 'Mr Horner', Nigel Davenport as 'A Quack', Joan Plowright as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', George Devine as 'Mr Pinchwife', Esme Percy as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Diana Churchill as 'Lady Fidget', Sheila Ballantine as 'Dainty Fidget', Moyra Fraser as 'Mrs Squeamish', John Moffatt as 'Mr Sparkish', Maureen Quinney as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Alan Bates as 'Mr Harcourt', Robert Stephens as 'Mr Dorilant', Margery Caldicott as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Jill Showell as 'Lucy', Brian Hankins as 'A Parson', and Stephen Dartnell as 'A Boy'.

The cast at London's Chelsea Palace Theatre featured Terence Morgan as 'Mr Horner', Robert Stephens as 'A Quack', Joan Plowright as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Esmond Knight as 'Mr Pinchwife', Esme Percy as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Marian Spencer as 'Lady Fidget', Sheila Ballantine as 'Dainty Fidget', Shelagh Fraser as 'Mrs Squeamish', John Moffatt as 'Mr Sparkish', Maureen Quinney as 'Alithea', Brian Hankins as 'Mr Harcourt', Frederick Treves as 'Mr Dorilant', Margery Caldicott as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Margaret Ashcroft as 'Lucy', Richard Coe as 'A Parson', and Stephen Dartnell as 'A Boy'.

Directed by George Devine, designs by Motley.

Presented by the English Stage Company.

The majority of cast changes, to that as it was at the Chelsea Palace Theatre, took place in March while this production was at the Adelphi Theatre.

Rachel Kempson was originally expected to play the role of 'Mrs Squeamish', but she withdrew prior to rehearsals.

The 2,500-seater Chelsea Palace Theatre was located at 232 to 242 Kings Road, on the corner of Sydney Street, and has now been rebuilt as shops and the Chelsea Court Place Care Home.


1977: London Revival with Albert Finney and Susan Littler

Previewed 9 November 1977, Opened 29 November 1977, Closed 25 July 1978 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre

The cast featured Albert Finney as 'Mr Horner', Nicholas Selby as 'A Quack', Susan Littler as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Richard Johnson as 'Mr Pinchwife', Robin Bailey as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Elizabeth Spriggs as 'Lady Figet', Ann Beach as 'Mistress Dainty Fidget', Helen Ryan as 'Mistress Squeamish', Ben Kingsley as 'Mr Sparkish', Polly Adams as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Kenneth Cranham as 'Mr Harcourt', Gawn Grainger as 'Mr Dorilant', Madoline Thomas as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Tel Stevens as 'Lucy', and Paul Henley as 'A Boy'.

with Daniel Thorndike, Dennis Tynsley, Edna Dore, Irene Gorst, Jane Evers, Janet Whiteside, Keith Skinner, Marianne Morley, Peggy Marshall, Peter Jolley, Peter Pacey, Peter Rocca, Ray Edwards, Richard Perkins, and Stanley Lloyd.

Directed by Peter Hall and Stewart Trotter, with choreography by Sally Gilpin, designs by John Bury, lighting by Leonard Tucker, music by Harrison Birtwistle, and sound by Susanna Ayliff.


1990: London Revival with John Moulder Brown and Kerry Higgins

Previewed 10 December 1990, Opened 13 December 1990, Closed 19 January 1991 at the Mermaid Theatre

The cast featured John Moulder Brown as 'Mr Horner', Michael Ward Allen as 'A Quack'/'Mr Sparkish', Kerry Higgins as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Keith Bridgwater as 'Mr Pinchwife', John Statham as 'Sir Jasper Fidget'/'Mr Dorilant', Fenella Fielding as 'Lady Fidget', Ingrid Wells as 'Dainty Fidget', Vivienne Brown as 'Mistress Squeamish', Stephen Fogg as 'Mr Harcourt', Helen Masters as 'Alithea Pinchwife', and Jo Rideout as 'Lucy'.

Directed by Richard Trethowan, with designs by Richard Vaughan.


1993: Lust the Musical with Denis Lawson

Previewed 5 July 1993, Opened 19 July 1993, Closed 6 November 1993 at the Haymarket Theatre

Musical by The Heather Brothers (Charles, John, Lea, Neil) based on William Wycherley's The Country Wife.

The cast featured Denis Lawson as 'Mr Horner', Paul Leonard as 'A Quack', Sophie Aldred as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Julian Curry as 'Mr Pinchwife', Anthony Dawes as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Judith Paris as 'Lady Fidget', Kate O'Sullivan as 'Dainty Fidget', Karen-Jane Tomlinson as 'Mistress Squeamish', Sean Wilton as 'Mr Sparkish', Helen Hobson as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Mark Haddigan as 'Mr Harcourt', Andrew Nyman as 'Mr Dorilant', Janet Devenish as 'Prudence', Tim Willis as 'Budge', Janet Devenish as 'Doxy', Sarah Moyle as 'Chastity', Stuart Pendred as 'Captain Jack', Colin Marsh as 'A Parson', and Andrew Sherwood as 'A Fiddler'.

Directed by Bob Carlton, with choreography by Irving Davies, designs by Geoff Rose, lighting by Ken Miller, and sound by Dave South.

This was a restaged version of the musical which was originally presented at the Hornchurch Queen's Theatre in Essex - previewed from 26 October 1992, opened on 30 October 1992, and closed on 28 November 1992 - with a cast that featured Denis Lawson as 'Mr Horner', Paul Leonard as 'A Quack', Rachel Robertson as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Clare Burt as 'Lady Fidget', Sean Wilton as 'Mr Sparkish', Andrew Loudon, Andrew Nyman, Andrew Sherwood, Anthony Dawes, Colin Marsh, Debra McCulloch, Janet Devenish, Judith Paris, Mark Longhurst, Myra Sands, Robert Oates, and Sarah Moyle. Directed and choreographed by David Toguri, with designs by Geoff Rose, and lighting by Gerry Jenkinson.


1994: London Revival with Jeremy Northam and Debra Gillett

Previewed 6 July 1994, Opened 12 July 1994, Closed 27 October 1994 (in repertory) at the Barbican Pit Theatre

With Prologue by Stephen Jeffreys.

The cast featured Caroline Payne as 'Prologue', Jeremy Northam as 'Mr Horner', Daniel York as 'A Quack', Debra Gillett as 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', Robin Soans as 'Mr Pinchwife', David Delve as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Abigail McKern as 'My Lady Fidget', Tilly Blackwood as 'Dainty Fidget', Tania Levey as 'Mrs Squeamish', Simon Dormandy as 'Mr Sparkish', Kate Duchene as 'Alithea Pinchwife', Jonathan Phillips as 'Mr Harcourt', Robert Portal as 'Mr Dorilant', Cherry Morris as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Alexandra Gilbreath as 'Lucy', Gary Taylor as 'A Parson', Damien Lyne as 'A Boy'.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark, with choreography by Sue Lefton, designs by Peter Hartwell, lighting by Wayne Dowdeswell, music and songs by Ian Dury and Mickey Gallagher, and sound by Martin Slavin and Jeremy Dunn.

Prior to London this production was presented at the Stratford-upon-Avon Swan Theatre - previewed from 4 August 1993, opened on 10 August 1993, and closed on 29 January 1994 (in repertory) - following by a short run at the Newcastle Playhouse Theatre - from 28 February to 8 March 1994 - with the same cast as London, with the exception of Janet Dale as 'Mrs Dainty Fidget', Anne Lambton as 'Mrs Squeamish', and Lloyd Notice as 'A Boy'.


2007: West End London Revival with Toby Stephens and Fiona Glascott

Previewed 27 September 2007, Opened 9 October 2007, Closed 12 January 2008 at the Haymarket Theatre

A major revival of William Wycherley's The Country Wife in London starring David Haig, Patricia Hodge and Toby Stephens

The cast featured Toby Stephens as 'Mr Horner', David Shaw-Parker as 'A Quack', Fiona Glascott 'Mrs Margery Pinchwife', David Haig as 'Mr Pinchwife', Nicholas Day as 'Sir Jasper Fidget', Patricia Hodge as 'Lady Fidget', Lucy Tregear as 'Dainty Fidget', Liz Crowther as 'Mrs Squeamish', Jo Stone-Fewings as 'Mr Sparkish', Elisabeth Dermot Walsh as 'Alithea Pinchwife', John Hopkins as 'Mr Harcourt', Tristan Beint as 'Mr Dorilant', Janet Brown as 'Old Lady Squeamish', Catherine Bailey as 'Lucy', and Timothy Bateson as 'A Boy'.

Directed by Jonathan Kent, with designs by Paul Brown, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Steven Edis, and sound by Paul Groothuis.

Fiona Glascott's London theatre credits include 'Maggie' in Terry Johnson's production of Steve Thompson's Whipping It Up at the Bush Theatre in 2006; and 'Alma Schindler' in Gregory Doran's production of Ronald Harwood's Mahler's Conversion at the Aldwych Theatre 2001.

Nicholas Day's London theatre credits include 'Loyal' in Lindsay Posner's revival of Moliere's Tartuffe at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2002; 'Antonio' in James Macdonald's revival of William Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Barbican Pit Theatre in 2000; and 'Stephen' in Patrick Marber's production of his play Closer at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre, and transfer to the West End's Vaudeville Theatre in 1995.

Lucy Tregear's London theatre credits include 'Honoria Glossop' in Alan Ayckbourn's revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn musical By Jeeves at the Duke Of York's Theatre and Lyric Theatre in 1996.

"Jonathan Kent's decision to tum it into an accelerated farce brings out the comedy at the expense of the underlying darkness. The actors, including Toby Stephens' Homer and David Haig's Pinchwife, with Fiona Glascott playing Mrs Pinchwife, hurtle through the dialogue and action. It is consistent but the lack of variation in tone becomes wearisome. A little more light and shade would have been welcome... The performers handle the language adroitly; the jokes come thick and fast and most of the audience seem to get them... Kent is a dab hand at creating a contemporary crowd pleaser out of an arcane piece of work. In this case, he has lost the edge of darkness that marks the play out for greatness and allows it to resonate long afterwards... And instead of being chilled at Homer's final declaration about true love: "It's real as long as the world thinks so", we emerge into the night amused and unmoved." The Daily Express

"Jonathan Kent blurs modern and Renaissance styles by using eye-poppingly bright set designs and sumptuous clothing to give his production the air of a suitably superficial kitsch fantasia. This nicely captures a society high on an unsustainable mix of hedonism, hypocrisy and cynicism. Toby Stephens is good as Homer, but David Haig is better as Pinchwife, the psychotic husband so threatened by his attractive young wife (played by Fiona Glascott), he keeps her under lock and key. Haig's dangerous masculine insecurity cleverly undercuts any sense that Kent's production is seduced by its own glitter. This is enormous fun but it leaves an aftertaste, too." The London Metro

"I am not sure that it has aged terribly well, but this unsubtle and impudent little number undoubtedly provides a great showcase for the talents of Toby Stephens. He plays Horner, a lascivious rake who persuades his physician to put it about that he is impotent so that he can put it about without making any of the capital's husbands suspicious... David Haig is also on great form as a Basil Fawlty-like Pinchwife, struggling against the odds to preserve his wife's good name. As for the women, newcomer Fiona Glascott is on fine mischievous form as Mrs Pinchwife. Patricia Hodge is simply delicious as the sex-starved Lady Fidget, and I liked, too, Janet Brown's slightly dotty Old Lady Squeamish... Overall Kent directs with brio. It is, however, Stephens's fine tour de force as Horner that makes the whole thing go down a treat." The Sunday Telegraph

The Country Wife in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 27 September 2007, opened on 9 October 2007, and closed on 12 January 2008.