The Country Wife – Suffolk Youth Theatre

So a moral dilemma, young people are the future of theatre and so any production that manages to get twenty 15-20yr olds onstage in a Restoration comedy should be applauded. What to do then when the production just fails to work? Give an honest review that reflects my opinion or make allowances based (patronisingly?) on age?

Suffolk Youth Theatre has gained a reputation in recent years for staging accomplished, visually impressive, physical theatre. Their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2009 for example would have made many a professional company proud.

For this year’s production the team have turned to William Wycherley’s restoration romp The Country Wife. Written in 1675 its typical restoration fair; full of over the top characters and barely repressed sexual tension. So ideal material you would think for a young company to get their teeth into? Unfortunately in this production the sum of the parts never add up. A mish-mash of garish costumes, punk inspired make up and hair, flat lighting and an even flatter set jar. Given strong performances the staging could be forgiven but sadly the usual high standards of stage craft seem lacking this time round. Lines are gabbled and projection is lacking and performances are over exaggerated.

So back to the moral dilemma. While it is indeed encouraging to see a young cast approach a 335 year old play and perform it with energy, some work is needed by the artistic team to reign in the current over playing with detailed characterisation and work on some much needed projection skills. Director Michael Platt also needs to reign in some of the performance to stop this restoration piece verge into farce.

Now some may think that this review is harsh given this is a youth theatre, however there has to come a stage before any opening night when a decision is made on whether any show is ready for public viewing. On this occasion sadly, this is one show that needs more work in the rehearsal room. There is potential here but it needs more work

Sadly not one of Suffolk Youth Theatre’s finest hours.

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