Based on true events, Stephen Jeffreys’ sharply written, comic play tells the story of the charismatic poet and playwright with a legendary appetite for excess. A close friend of King Charles II, Rochester’s life of debauchery knows no bounds until headstrong actress Elizabeth Barry (Ophelia Lovibond) makes an appearance at the Playhouse. Could she finally be the one to tame him?
After taking her to see Beautiful a little while back Charley repaid the favour by inviting me along as her plus one to see Dominic Cooper in the Libertine which is in the middle of a ten week run. Going in I knew absolutely nothing – I won’t lie, I was only there for Cooper. Charley had done a little bit of research though and filled me in. Most people know about the Libertine as in the film version Johnny Depp plays the titular role of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, known not only for his risque poetry but also for being a bit of a playboy.
The play opens with Cooper warning the audience that we aren’t going to like him and he was 100% right. Rochester treats the wife he keeps in the country terribly and the whores he uses in the city even worse. It’s a biopic about his life but to me it wasn’t very interesting and in my opinion too lacklustre to be a good story. I don’t know if this is simply a personal preference or if the performance was missing that certain something that would give it a spark.
The funniest part to me was the post interval opener of a song dedicated to dildos which was as unexpected as it was crude but the rest of the show doesn’t deliver the laughs or sauciness that I expected. The Libertine is only running until the 3rd of December so be quick if you want to go see it for yourself.