The Country Wife (Audition)


The Country Wife - Reading and Audition Notice

Reading:   Sunday 22nd September, 6.00 pm onwards (Foyer, Hampton Hill Playhouse)

Audition:  Monday 30th September, 6.00 pm onwards (Coward Studio, Hampton Hill Playhouse)


Restoration drama officially covers the reign of Charles II (1660 – 1685) and this highly entertaining play dates from 1675. The language of the play is not in any way complex - once you are into the style, you will not find it difficult.

This is a comedy and a satire of manners, and there is nothing complicated about the plot: we are not in the land of Shakespeare and the Jacobean dramatists: it is pure, licentious entertainment, as indeed befitted the era following the civil war and the Cromwellian interregnum, after which everyone let their hair down.

Master Horner (the name should provide an initial clue) has let it be known, via a somewhat devious quack doctor, that he has become a eunuch, so that he may have free access to females. He is introduced to three ladies who like sex but reject him because of his…circumstances. We need not dwell further here as to what later happens to them. 

However, his friend Pinchwife (unaware of Horner’s pretended status) has married a young country girl and brought her to London. Needless to say, Horner sets his cap (and other things) at her, and the resulting chaos is brought to an intriguing end in which Horner’s pretence is incredibly maintained. How Wycherley achieves this is something you’ll have to come and find out.

There is also a sub-plot in which the ‘romantic lead’, Harcourt, courts and eventually wins Pinchwife’s sister, Alithea, who had been contracted to marry a would-be wit, Sparkish.

There are lots of wonderful parts in this play, and we remember that, for the first time in English drama, women played female parts on stage: as a result the females in restoration dramas are well-written choice roles.

HORNER: the main part.  He must be able to dissemble without antagonising the audience. I need a wry sense of humour and a strong belief in his own ability to seduce the female sex. He epitomises his age and we need to be with him, enjoy what he does, and not criticise his motivation.

THE QUACK DOCTOR: this is a very entertaining part - totally unscrupulous, he should be a disgrace to his profession, but we are in 1675, not 2013 (I’m open to argument here!).

HARCOURT: a gentleman, who courts Alithea, but this is not a lovesick romantic: there is a ridiculous scene, where he masquerades as his brother.  Alithea gives him some nasty moments, so, although dissolute (as they all then were), there is yet a genuineness about him, and we must take him to our hearts.

DORILANT: his companion. A straightforward part, but he does get his own girl (Lucy) at the end.

SPARKISH: one of the best male parts in the play (he would later become Lord Foppington) who believes himself to be a wit, but is basically as thick as two short planks. Eventually, when Alithea, to whom he is contracted, chooses Harcourt, he is worsted, but the Sparkishes of that world and indeed this one, never learn.

JACK PINCHWIFE: spends most of the play worrying about his new wife. As an ex-roué himself, he knows the ‘game’ and is paranoid about the effect that London (and, of course, Horner) will have upon her. This is a great part in true comic tradition.

SIR JASPER FIDGET: the name gives the clue: he is always rushing off somewhere, and does not have time to reflect on what, to us, is obvious. He even entrusts his wife with Horner. How daft can you get?

MARGERY PINCHWIFE: a gem of a part; totally innocent at the outset, she very quickly learns the ways of London and its gentry, and becomes quite cunning in her liaison with Horner.  (NOTE: I would like a country accent here, but not overdone: we are not doing The Archers).  The ‘country’ in the 17th century was often held up as a superior place, but the honest delight of Margery in sex is contrasted with Lady Fidget’s hypocritical one. That’s important to an understanding of Margery.

LADY FIDGET/LADY SQUEAMISH/MRS DAINTY FIDGET:  I’ve bracketed these three together, since they represent hypocritical sex, and they are all fine, well-rounded, and raucous parts, culminating in Act V when they get pretty wrecked on booze, and, although the song there is for Fidget, I am planning to have a trio, and am already commissioning a musical friend of mine to write a special tune, since an original one does not seem to exist.

ALITHEA:  The love interest, but not your star-struck girl. She has spirit, and is not just going to fall besotted at Harcourt’s feet on the basis that anything is better than Sparkish. She is very much her own person, and a cut above the other females in the play.

LUCY:  her maid, not much to do in the first half, but comes into her own in the second. Pert, and indeed just as crafty as others, this is another little gem of a part.

OLD LADY SQUEAMISH (second half only). The usual ‘mother’ who is basically just as bad as her daughter. Play it as written, it will come right!

There is also a BOY and a mute PARSON. These can be the stage crew (hopefully). I will probably also need a couple of ‘extras’.

I have not specified ages; the spectrum is a broad one, so I’d like to see what occurs at the reading and audition. I have prepared my own acting version, since cuts are necessary for the sake of time, and – more importantly – to dispense with a lot of 17th century banter which would not be intelligible to a modern audience. My script is available via an e-mail to me, but as I am away from 6th to 14th September, e-mail contact can be made with Jean Goodwin.

I hope all this sounds fun, and will make you want to attend the reading and subsequent audition. I will want to start straight away, as there is a lot to do: initially rehearsals will be three a week (probably including most Sunday afternoons), but I never like calling cast for the sake of it.  I work in blocks, doing selected scenes with those who are in them, putting everything together later on. I will aim to have the show basically ready for the start of the Christmas break, so we spend the weeks after Christmas/New Year fitting it to the stage. 

John Roth



P.S.  As the audition date clashes with a performance of Arcadia, there may be some people who can make the reading but not the audition.  I am more than happy to combine the two for any such: just let me know on or before the reading date. I also noticed that the red leaflet which accompanied the last magazine had the audition start time as 7.45. I have said 6.00 onwards, since anyone who can come earlier will save me having to cram everything into 2½ hours and, indeed, keep people waiting. 


Contact Details:  To get in touch with the director before the Reading/Audition, please use the Contact page of this website and your message will be forwarded.

NOTE:   We have an open casting policy:  anyone can audition for our productions and, if cast, will then be required to join as a Full Member. 


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