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Review: The Way of the World, at Donmar Warehouse

A wealth of talent on display in Restoration comedy with rich and scheming people in pursuit of money and power

12 April, 2018 — By Sipora Levy

Haydn Gwynne as Lady Wishfort in The Way of the World. Photo: Johan Persson

HOW does one make an 18th-century Restoration comedy relevant to a 21st-century audience? One way is to bring it up to date, as Lyndsey Turner did in her well-received 2012 revival.

Here, director James Macdonald has taken a traditional approach, complete with wigs and authentic costumes.

William Congreve’s play is inhabited by rich and scheming people in pursuit of money and power. Most of them appear to be after the fortune of Lady Wishfort, brilliantly played by Haydn Gwynne (recently seen as Camilla in Channel 4’s The Windsors).

Fisayo Akinade (Witwoud), Christian Patterson (Sir Wilfull Witwould) and Simon Manyonda (Petulant) in The Way of the World. Photo Johan Persson

Gwynne stepped into the role only a few days before rehearsals began, when Linda Bassett stepped down for personal reasons. She is to be commended for bringing warmth and humanity to the role, as well as learning her lines so quickly.

There is a wealth of talent on display: the acting is impeccable throughout and Sarah Hadland as the foul-mouthed Foible and Fisayo Akinade as the affected Sir Wilfull Witwoud stand.

The handmade costumes are ravishing, and so much care and commitment has gone into the production, it is in many ways a true labour of love. However, although there is much to admire in this production, three hours is far too long for what is meant to be a lively comedy of manners.

Incidentally, due to a film company shooting the show on Friday, the theatre is offering £10 tickets on that night.

UNTIL MAY 26
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