THE CONSTANT WIFE
By W Somerset Maugham
Director Chris Harris and Natalie Davies
|Bentley||A butler, is essential but has few lines; the three main chaps are all 40–ish|
|Mortimer||Has only one scene but it is explosive and challenging|
|John||A successful surgeon|
|Bernard||Constance’s long–standing admirer|
|Constance||John’s wife, is 35. This is a big and challenging part|
|Mrs Culver||Is old enough to be Constance’s mother|
|Martha||Mrs Culver’s younger daughter|
|Barbara||A smaller but worthwhile part, is 40s or over and is a businesswoman|
|Marie-Louise||Perhaps late 20s, is Mortimer’s wife…. And rather more.|
Trust me on this: the play is an absolute belter, with the bonus of not being over–familiar.
On the surface it is the archetypal sophisticated light comedy written for the West End at perhaps its commercial peak. We are in the late 1920s, a fabulous period for frocks and for design in general. The characters are wealthy, their dialogue witty to a fault, the situations piquants, the construction immaculate. Add Maugham’s name at the very height of his success, and the coefficient of wealthy bums on red plush seats must have been near 100%. And yet …. Well: expect shock waves through the theatre, even today. An extraordinary piece, full (says one source) of ‘polished malice’. Indeed so – though even
fuller of good laughs.