George Farquhar's 1707 play is both a late Restoration romp and a proto-feminist piece that scrutinises marital misery from the enslaved wife's point of view, extraordinarily ahead of its time in advocating “no fault” divorce as the solution.
In Simon Godwin's good-humoured, light-of-touch revival in the Travelex £15 season, Mrs Sullen – fourteen months shackled to a sottish, incommunicative spouse, who's interested only in her fortune – is played by the excellent Susannah Fielding.
She radiates the combative sparkiness undimmed by the embittering frustration of this character's lot. “Since a woman must wear chains, I would have the pleasure of hearing 'em rattle a little,” she declares drily.
She gets her chance when two impecunious beaux who've blown their inheritances in London (Geoffrey Streatfeild and Samuel Barnett in a very attractive calculating-but-not-heartless double act) fetch up in Lichfield, posing as master and servant, out to bag a female of means.
Godwin's production could, at the moment, do with quite a bit more oomph but it moves with a slick fluency on Lizzie Clachan's ingenious set of sliding panels and triple staircase and it is blessed with a cast who do quirky justice to the giddily batty crush of characters, with Pearce Quigley deadpanning comic bliss as the north country butler who can't keep secrets.
To September 20; 020 7452 3000; Sept 3 NT Live broadcastReuse content