The Libertine, The Royal Haymarket

Playing at The Royal Haymarket Theatre at the moment is Stephen Jeffreys’s spoofish 1994 satire “The Libertine.” Played by the “Preacher” star Dominic Cooper, the Second Earl of Rochester, is a familiar figure. He’s the real-life equivalent of George Etherege’s “Man of Mode” and a licentious anti-hero of the Restoration era.

Set during the reign of King Charles II (Jasper Britton), a period of British history that let the louche off the leash, “The Libertine” revels in rich men’s revelry. Rochester and his gang of literary snarks, swing from the coffee shops to the playhouses via the brothels, boozing and bonking as they go. Cooper cuts a dashing figure as Rochester, but never really plumbs the depths. The actor does arrogance and enviable ease without trying.

There’s isn’t much of the poetry in play (in comparison to the original play) which takes in his whole adult life. But the drama, which has been rewritten several times in the intervening years (and was made into an entertaining film starring Johnny Depp) was not a disappoint. Although the play is not one to go see with the family with a sizeable about of crude jokes and questionable sex scenes, I would strongly recommend it as it vibrant and fun play along with the naughty idea that you are peeking into a bad life fully lived and fully wasted.

The Libertine is playing at The Royal Haymarket Theatre until December 3rd.

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