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Audio Drama Review


The Country Wife


Author: William Wycherley
Starring: Maggie Smith and Jonathan Pryce
BBC Audio
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 408 42785 9
Available 04 March 2010

Considered too obscene to be staged in its original form for nearly 200 years, William Wycherley's bawdy comedy tells the tale of Mr Horner - a notorious rake who spreads the false rumour that he is impotent in order to gain free access to other men's wives. When he meets the young, innocent Margery Pinchwife, the 'country wife' of the title, the scene is set for scandal...

While The Country Wife may well have been controversial and extremely shocking back in 1675 when William Wycherley first penned it, it's a rather bland and silly affair by today's standards. The main problem is that it just goes on and on - and you've pretty much grasped what the rest of the play is going to entail before the end of the first couple of scenes.

This recording was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in December 1985 and includes some of the country's finest stage actors (including Maggie Smith, Jonathan Pryce, John Duttine, John Moffatt, Harriet Walter and Michael Aldridge). But it doesn't matter, because most people will lose interest before the first act is over.

I suppose part of the problem is that, like Shakespeare (don't get me started on him - I've already voiced my dislike for that semi-literate playwright, who academics will insist in telling us is a literary genius, in numerous other reviews on this site), this uses the original olde English language of the time and will result in most people switching off almost immediately. But that's not the main problem. The characters are two-dimensional, the jokes... well, are pretty weak, and the whole production feels like a very badly constructed pantomime.

That's not to say that this radio dramatisation is bad, far from it. They do a remarkable job with the material they have - and sadly that's the problem. The source material is just, well, dull.

If you want to pretend that you're well read then you can listen to this and boast that you've read the book. Otherwise... well avoid is probably the word I'd use.


Darren Rea

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