THE PROVOK'D WIFE
National Theatre Studios
By John Vanbrugh
Directed by Mark Wing-Davey
Starring Kate O'Mara as Lady Brute
This was a two-week R&D exploring the scatological elements of Restoration drama, focusing on Vanbrugh's The Provok'd Wife. The room became a research lab - a living museum - during the process.
The Provok'd Wife tells the story of the hitherto virtuous Lady Brute, who is provoked to infidelity by her sour husband Sir John Brute. Married in haste – she for money, he for sex – the Brutes are shackled by wedlock but looking for diversions. He goes off for a drunken night on the town and ends up before a magistrate, disguised in his wife's frock. Meanwhile, Lady Brute and her niece Belinda dress as Shepherd Market doxies for a secret tryst with their suitors Heartfree and Constant and are spied on by the envious Lady Fanciful, who wants Heartfree for herself. Belinda, despite interference from Lady Fanciful, wins her man and marries for love. But it ends sadly for the boozy Brute who attempts to rape his wife, discovers two gallants lurking in his wardrobe and finally ends up accepting certain situations rather than becoming a human pincushion (i.e., fighting a duel to satisfy his honor).