This evening I went to see The Libertine at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The libertine is a play by Stephen Jeffreys, following the true story of The Earl of Rochester. John Wilmot. It was first performed in the Royal Court, and was now revived with Dominic Cooper playing the title role. The Earl of Rochester was a alcoholic, sex-manic earl, who took a particular interest in the theatre.
The performance began as we entered the Theatre, with characters sitting in the Royal boxes, Harlots selling fruit, and actors amongst the audience in the Dress, and I assume the Upper Circle. Replicating the playhouse in that time, creating a rather authentic atmosphere.
I will mention the acting briefly. The acting was very good. Dominic Cooper seemed very committed, and despite the amount of times he repeated that you would not like his character, you could not help but fall for him a little. Apart from Dominic Cooper, the rest of the cast was brilliant, especially Ophelia Lovibond, who played Lizzie, an actress trained by John Wilmot, and his love interest. The cast was Funny, poignant and emotional. The use of tableaux was very effective in isolating the different issues and characters that were speaking. Also creating several comedic scenes.
However, I don’t particularly want to dwell on the acting, as I think the good acting was ennobled by the amazing writing. There were particular scenes, especially regarding the Theatre, with Cooper and Lovibond, which had me completely lost in the acting, in an almost cathartic sense. The scenes in which Theatre was mentioned was written with such beauty and truth. “But in the playhouse every action, good or bad, has it’s consequences. Drop a handkerchief and it will return to smother you. The theatre is my drug.” There was something so reassuring by it. About the words from the alcoholic earl, talking about how the theatre felt like a ship. The words resonated with me, and had such a sense of poignancy and serendipity. Stephen Jeffreys created this amazing character, who you truly felt sorry for, despite all of his alcoholism, and faults. It was a very funny play, which masked the darkness/seriousness of the play. And this character, who truly hated himself, and hated living, and drunk away his sorrow, with the façade that he could do whatever he wanted. Dominic Cooper managed to portray this very successfully.
It was a very enjoyable performance, political, funny, however funny in a very sad sense- If that makes sense. It left you, with a weird feeling. Joyous, from the comedy, however once the characters and the narrative set in, it was rather emotional.