Ribald Restoration comedy comes with pace aplenty

The Country Wife

Minerva, Chichester 

June 2018

William Wycherley was an extremely ribald playwright in Charles II’s Restoration England. Indeed his 1675 play The Country Wife, which opened at the Drury Lane Theatre (newly restored by Christopher Wren), was banned for 171 years from 1753 because it was thought to be too risqué. It was performed again in London in 1924, and the first American production was in 1931.

So it seems adventurous for Chichester of all places to revive it at the Minerva, where it runs from mid June to early July. However the prospects are tempting for the modern theatre-goer, with direction by Jonathan Munby, who directed the acclaimed King Lear with Sir Ian McKellen (which transfers to London’s West End in July).

Horner, a wicked womaniser, decides that his affairs with married women have become too well-known to husbands. So he determines to hide his pursuit of wives by faking impotence, to convince husbands that their womenfolk are safe in his hands, so to speak. So, egged on by his laddish companions, his sexual escapades continue unabated with willing wives such as Lady Fidget (Belinda Lang).

Horner is unequivocally sexist, and shows little respect for the women he seduces: “I’d advise my friends to keep [women] rather than marry,” he says. And “Tis my maxim, he’s a fool that marries; but he’s a greater that does not marry a fool.”

THE COUNTRY WIFE at CFT Photos by Manuel Harlan

His attention is caught by a pretty young country wife, Margery (Susannah Fielding) who has been brought to the big city by Pinchwife, her much older husband. Pinchwife goes to great trouble to keep his new wife out of mischief and away from the new thrills of city life, which she is eager to experience. At one point, he even dresses her up as a young man, in cap and blazer, but Horner is not fooled and makes unabashed advances to the ‘lad’.

Pinchwife’s sister Alithea (Jo Herbert) provides a counterpoint to all this naughtiness. Although engaged to Sparkish (Scott Karin), she is pursued by Harcourt (Ashley Zhangazha) who is determined to win her as his wife.

Certainly, the pace, performances and dialogue are all fast, in every sense of the word. Double dealings and double entendres abound; there is much entering and exiting the stage at speed through different doorways, and hiding people in nearby rooms and closets.

Lex Shrapnel plays the lead role Horner with the speed and energy of James Corden in One man two guv’nors, and the whole cast throw themselves into this sexual melting pot with abandon. But context is important too, and it is somewhat regrettable that the play is set in the 21st century.

Although fakery is part and parcel of today’s society, in a sense modern manners and behaviour seem more negative and introspective than the crude confidence of the 1660s and 1670s. In those days, the married women were far from MeToo; indeed they connived with and actively took part in the sexual proclivities of the men.

It might have been sensible to set the play 200 years later in the 1960s and 70s, when there was another sexual revolution; when men wore colourful clothes and frilly shirts; and when people spoke in tongues, often fuelled by drugs and alcohol. OK, that is still around today, but with much less joie de vivre and optimism. Nevertheless, it must be said that this production has a lot going for it and is great fun.

www.cft.org.uk

 Nick Keith

Poets, performers and songwriters – showcase your work in Petersfield

Write Angle poetry and music cabaret returns on April 17 to The Townhouse in Petersfield, with guest performer Cam Brown.

Cam Brown

Founder of Write Angle, Leah Cohen, said: “Cam’s first time with Write Angle was so successful, we had to ask him back – it’s his third time! He’s guaranteed to give you an evening of fun.

“Cam’s an accomplished musician who plays a mean guitar and harmonica, sings non-stop, and involves the audience – you can’t help liking the guy or laughing at the lyrics!

“Since age 16, when he sang at the ‘Epsom Folk Club’ (Paul Simon topped the bill that night), and heard the traditional comic, non-PC folk song genre along with the more contemporary music of Jake Thackray, George Melly, Paddy Roberts etc, that’s become the core of his repertoire.

“For 50 years, he’s continued strumming at pubs and folk singers’ clubs, as well as currently running a successful open mic night at The Chelsea Arts Club, London.

“His extensive repertoire of witty and funny songs is organised into themes, including social attitudes, drink, love, relationships, and more. He also includes traditional ballads and poems picked up in those early folk club days; then embellishing, rewriting and setting them to his own tunes, Cam is a very talented guitar player who loves entertaining, and it shows. He’ll have you beating your seats – if you can keep up with him – and singing along. He’s an irresistable charmer!

“As well as his amazing ability to hit the strings with fingers flying at the speed of light, he sings in a blues band called SCRAM, as well as forming an Americana trio, Blazing Saddlers, performing three-part harmony material from the fifties and sixties (think Lonnie Donegan meets the Everly Brothers), and having just completed two very successful evenings at the Claygate Music Festival, he produced iis first CD, titled Cam Brown Sings vol 1′ in 2013.”

Write Angle is at The Townhouse, High Street, Petersfield on Tuesday, April 17. Doors open at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start. There will also be an open mic spot for anyone to read, play or perform their work to a supportive audience. Admission costs £6. See www.petersfieldwriteangle.co.uk to find out more.

Saxon life, escapee kids and Stone Age painting

Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield will open seven days a week from the Easter weekend.  The farm currently has 17 lambs and six baby goats frolicking amongst the roundhouses; the kids are quite the escape artists so you never know where they’re likely to pop up.

Over the Easter weekend Anglo Saxon re-enactment group Herigeas Hundas will be greeting the spring and making the farm their home with demonstrations, traditional crafts, cooking and fighting. The group will be showing visitors what life would have been like in 5th to 7th century Hampshire with the backdrop of the farm’s Saxon Long Hall. Families can get a further taste for Saxon life by following the farm’s spring trail to find and translate Saxon runes and reveal a secret message.  

 Each day of the holidays there’s also the chance to get hands on with some DIY archaeology experiments, from making mosaics to Stone Age painting, and to learn more about the farm and archaeology with ten-minute taster talks. On Wednesdays visitors will have the chance to learn the art of felting and create something special to take home.

Visitors to Butser Ancient Farm over Easter will also get a sneak preview of the construction of this year’s giant 30ft wicker man for the farm’s Beltain festival on May 5.  The wicker man design changes every year and is only revealed on the night of the festival where it is ceremonially burned to welcome in the summer months.

See www.butserancientfarm.co.uk

Godalming’s spring festival is on April 7

Godalming Town Council’s annual Spring Festival will be celebrating the delights of the new season with an inspiring day out in Godalming. On Saturday, April 7 between 10am-5pm, visitors will be able to discover handmade items by creative craftspeople and enjoy a mouth-watering array of artisan street food, drink and produce from hand-picked local producers.

This year’s Spring Festival is set to be a real treat with live music and entertainment at Godalming’s iconic Pepperpot. Punch & Judy shows, children’s activities and a ride on the popular Dobby Horse Carousel will all be on offer in Church Street to keep the children amused.

A wide variety of stalls including gifts, jewellery, fashion accessories and crafts will be found throughout the town centre as well as the Cider festival at The Star in Church Street. Godalming’s shops, hostelries and the Godalming Museum will be open to visitors. Godalming’s own Fleur de Lys Morris Dancers will be performing for your delight during the day and of course, no spring festival would be complete without a traditional hog roast, which you will find on the High Street.

For more information go www.godalming-tc.gov.uk/spring-festival/

Book now for Easter holiday fun from the RAPP van

A cracking Easter holiday is in store for youngsters across East Hampshire as the Rural Areas Play Project (RAPP) and Get Activ8d schemes are back to provide ‘egg-citing’ activities over the two-week break.

The Easter holidays are nearly here and children, parents and grandparents from around the district are set to have great fun at the two schemes organised by East Hampshire District Council.

The two-week Easter Holiday programme runs from Tuesday, April 2 to Friday, April 13, and the RAPP vans will be visiting towns and villages across East Hampshire, including Froyle, Whitehill and Bordon, Rake, Buriton, Clanfield, Selborne, Horndean, Liphook, Medstead, Lindford, Liss, Froxfield, Bentley, East Meon and Greatham.

RAPP was set up 12 years ago by East Hampshire District Council to give children up to the age of 11 (under eights must be accompanied by an adult) the opportunity to get involved in fun activities, games, adventures, workshops and meet new friends in the school holidays.

This Easter, RAPP will feature lots of Easter-themed arts and crafts sessions, as well as some samba drumming, bug hunting, balloon making, volcano ‘eggs-ploding’, plant growing, kite flying, raft building, unicorn making fun!

The full programme of activities and locations can be found here: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/rapp

Get Activ8d, which provides sporting activities to children aged seven to 14, is also back this Easter in Alton, Whitehill & Bordon, Kingsley, Blackmoor, Horndean and Petersfield.

The Get Activ8d Easter programme includes street dance, cheerleading, hula hooping, tennis, golf, gymnastics and climbing sessions.

The full programme of activities and locations can be found here: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/get-activ8d

You will be able to book online from 10am on Tuesday, March 20 through the My East Hampshire District Council portal: https://my.easthants.gov.uk/login/.

Ramster Garden celebrates spring with special offer

Ramster Garden in Chiddingfold Surrey is celebrating the arrival of spring and its first weekend of opening with a special 2 for 1 offer on adult entry on Sunday, March 18 (10am until 5pm).

See early rhododendrons as they burst into flower marking the start of garden’s spectacular flowering season. Be dazzled by the array of brilliant yellow daffodils and look out for the native Narcissus pseudonarcissus with its delicate creamy outer petals and a deep yellow centre.

Don’t miss the ancient magnolias and kaleidoscope of flowers along Camellia Walk which delight you with patterns and colours some resembling raspberry ripple ice cream. The camellias which mostly originate from Japan give a fantastic show of colour from the deepest shades of pink through to the purest white during March.

“After a long winter the garden suddenly comes to life with the most exquisite flowers and colours,” says Rosie Glaister, who runs the family owned garden. “A few early birds from our rhododendrons collection will already be out including R. Cilpiense hybrids, R. ‘Prince Camille de Rohan’ and R. ‘Rosa Mundi’ one of our most reliable performers forming banks of pink blooms.”

Explore over 20 acres of magical woodland and see for the first time a view of the Valley of the Giants which features exotic trees recognised by TROBI (Tree Register of Britain & Ireland) for their remarkable sizes. Trees include Eastern Hemlock, the Giant Sequoia, the Grand Fir currently standing at 47m and the prize Japanese Cedar which can reach almost 7,000 years old.

As you walk around Ramster Garden you will also discover sculptures and natural carvings of wild boar, chickens, a fox and an owl bench. Visitors can relax after their walk in the Tea House which serves cakes, sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

Ramster Garden opens daily from March 17 – June 10. The special 2 for 1 offer on adult entry applies to Sunday, March 18 only. Normal admission applies at all other times. Membership which entitles visitors to unlimited visits during opening times is available. Free parking and discounted group rates for 15+ people. Dogs on leads are welcome in the garden.

Admission charges: adults to the garden £7.50; group rate for garden (15+ people) £6.50; children under 16 free; registered disabled £3.

Ramster Garden, Chiddingfold

01428 654167

ramsterevents.com

Liss Film Festival this month

The Triangle Centre in Liss will be hosting its 6th annual film festival from February 15-18. Films to be shown include Victoria & Abdul, Hairspray, Despicable Me 3, Lucky Logan and Tea with Mussolini.

The Triangle will also be introducing its new Cinegi system by showing the award-winning theatre production of The Audience, with Helen Mirren.

Further details can be found at www.liss-triangle-centre.org.uk or by telephoning 01730 301000.

Winter walks and workshops with Surrey Wildlife Trust

If you’ve indulged in too many mince pies this year, why not work off those Christmas calories by taking a walk on the wild side with Surrey Wildlife Trust?  With more than 70 nature reserves to explore and a host of New Year events, now’s a great time to get outside and enjoy Surrey’s winter landscapes with family and friends.

Pull on your boots and warm clothes and head to Shere Woodlands near Guildford for an inspiring walk through fallen leaves, with the promise of breathtaking views from West Hanger across the Weald and towards the South Downs. Keep an eye out for birds of prey like buzzards or kestrels hunting for small mammals.

Brentmoor Heath – photo by Mark Horton

Or grab your binoculars and take a trip to Nutfield Marshes, near Redhill, for some fresh air and a satisfying stroll round the lakes. This wonderful wetland reserve is a magnet for winter water fowl and waders. Tufted ducks, gadwalls and the odd pochard can be found at this time of year, together with mute swans, little grebes and greylag geese.

Greylag goose

A walk on the vast windswept landscape of Chobham Common is spectacular at this time of year. This rare lowland heathland is the largest National Nature Reserve in the south east of England. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded here, including the rare Dartford warbler – look out for this small but striking bird perched on top of gorse stems.

“It’s a winter wonderland out there with so many wild places to discover,” said the Trust’s Charlotte Magowan. “So why not get out with your family and friends this season?”

Or you could join one of the New Year events, including guided walks, family fun and courses? Here are a few ideas to start your 2018 in wild style:

Shiver & Shake at Ashtead – Saturday, January 13, 11am-12.30pm

Explore magical Ashtead Park in winter and learn about the habitats create such a fantastic haven for wildlife.

Wild Families – Saturday, January 13, 10.30am-12.30pm

Go wild with your family and get closer to nature at a fun session for all ages at Newlands Corner near, Guildford, with games, crafts and wild activities for all.

Wild Families

 

Dual Workshop: Willow Making & Yoga – Tuesday, January 16, 10am-3pm

Enjoy a New Year treat at Nower Wood, near Leatherhead – spend the morning learning to make outdoor candle holders/bird feeders from willow. After lunch, relax with an afternoon yoga session – dreamy!

 

Winter Wanderings on Rodborough – Monday, January 22, 10am-12noon

Blow away the Christmas cobwebs on a guided winter walk exploring the beautiful expanses of Rodborough Common, near Godalming.

Remember that members of the Trust get free walks and discounted talks and courses. You can sign up for half price membership in our January sale and get a free calendar, while stocks last. For more information on membership and all of the Trust’s events, courses and talks, as well as a full list of more than 70 nature reserves to explore across the county visit www.surreywildlifetrust.org.

The Seeing Eye photography exhibition – Farnham Pottery

Farnham Pottery is not only a place to learn how to throw a pot, do some life drawing or write a masterpiece (to mention just a few of their programmes) it also makes an engaging exhibition space. At the latest exhibition – Seeing Eye – Responding to the environment – works by six photographers are given extra dimension by being displayed on walls and in corners that seem to hum with almost 150 years of creativity.

The six photographers are varied but fit together neatly. Headlining is Jacqui Hurst who delights in gardens and urban areas colonised by unexpected plants and will return to the same spot time and again to find the right light and the composition that works to create her beautiful  work. Angela Shaw also turns to nature for her inspiration and works as an “environmental artist”.

“I am not a photographer, I am an artist working with light,” she says. She has created intriguing installations, placing items in Alice Holt Forest and playing around with them then photographing them, and also uses pinhole cameras to take pictures over months, something that allows her to capture the changing seasons.

“It’s about slowing down to spend time in nature,” she says.

In contrast, Hugh Rawson literally “shoots from the hip”. A headteacher at a local school, Hugh turned to street photography in recent years as a creative outlet and is particularly drawn to urban environments where, camera on his hip, he takes thousands of pictures from which he chooses just a few. He chooses well. The results are cool, compelling glimpses of lives, mostly in black and white, which leave you wanting more.

Mike Green, on the other hand, also produces black and white film but works the old way – 36 prints per film, each shot lovingly often after a long wait. “I often find a spot which speaks to me as a place and then I wait for perhaps a couple of hours and I see how people interact with that space.” The results are little stories which draw the viewer in.

Luke Whatley-Bigg takes a different angle – usually from the sky. Just 13 years old, he specialises in drone photography and takes his drone out to local landmarks where somehow me manages to hold the drone steady and work out exactly the right angle for stunning photographs. He is certainly a name to watch.

Finally, Wrecclesam resident Miriam Windsor is exhibiting six intensely personal photographs of women who have suffered from post-natal depression, alongside letters written by the present-day women to their former selves. Among them is a picture of Miriam herself and it is photography which helped her to find a sense of herself when she was ill after the birth of her daughter 10 years ago. The portraits are regal, like ones you might find on the walls of a stately home, the letters are intensely moving and the combination is a reminder of both the dignity and the fragility of human life.

The exhibition continues until December 7. For details see www.thefarnhampottery.co.uk or call 07733 325138.

By Stella Wiseman