Time Out says
Dominic Cooper is great in this oddly dour Restoration romp
Nowt to do with Pete Doherty – though I suppose several scenes would ring a bell for him – ‘The Libertine’ is a revival of Stephen Jeffreys’s 1994 play about the notorious John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (famously adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp). A legendary rake, boozer and frenemy of King Charles II, those of you with more ‘progressive’ English teachers may have come across some of Wilmot’s fantastically ribald poetry back in the day.
The play provides a fair vehicle for a lead actor, in this case erstwhile History Boy Dominic Cooper. He’s very good as Wilmot: from his arch opening monologue in which he witheringly orders us not to like him, he portrays Rochester as a brilliant, troubled – I'm not sure think he ever cracks a smile – underachiever, whose wildly provocative behaviour (‘I must always push thing too far’) comes from a mix of frustration at the limits of Restoration society, and a sort of sublimated inferiority complex that stops him writing ‘proper’ works in the vein of his friends John Dryden and George Etherege for fear of ridicule.
He’s good, but one problem with Jeffreys’s play is that almost nobody around Wilmot has any sort of depth whatsoever: they’re just bewigged caricatures of Restoration fops and tarts (though here Jasper Britton is very good as a deceptively deadly Charles II). The other problem is that it’s tonally inconsistent. Formally it nods to Restoration comedy and both halves start in a shower of delightful naughtiness (the first Wilmot’s brilliant monologue, the second a lengthy song about dildos). But in each half director Terry Johnson runs out of funny material to get his teeth into as Wilmot turns to ponderous naval-gazing and it all bogs down in something verging on moralising.
Worth it for Cooper, then, but the play is no classic.
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Anything spoken in Old-English, like Shakespeare, doesn’t appeal to me at all but after seeing good reviews for The Libertine I decided to give it a go (the star of the show was also a convincing factor!).
Surprisingly this amusing, engaging play drew me in immediately.
I didn’t know what to expect of this production before attending, but ended up really enjoying it and in particular Dominic Cooper’s central performance. He is mesmerising playing the uninhibited, good-looking and cocky heir, and delivers his lines with real conviction. I’ve never really noticed him much as a film actor but in this play he fully commands the stage with charisma and, in the second half, vulnerability.
The staging is interesting - taking place on raised platforms and balconies and occasionally amongst the audience as well. The language and content can be quite ‘colourful’ so this is probably best for an audience of 16+.
It’s a play quite unlike anything I’ve seen in the West End before - despite the time period in which it’s set it still feels very fresh and contemporary.
This is a cheeky, old fashioned historical romp. It almost felt a bit like Blackadder but without the clever wit. Dominic Cooper is excellent as our leading lothario who implores you in the entertaining opening monologue not to like him. Despite a great cast I found the script unfunny & unoriginal. I must admit I'd just finished a week of night shift so was exhausted. I left at the interval because I wasn't connecting with it & found it hard to stay awake. My friend however reports there was a hilarious song about dildo's in the second half. Bawdy it is, high brow it's not!
A period piece about the "notorious" libertine the Earl of Rochester (who was around during the reign of Charles II). It's a sort of rough comedy - full of rather crude and not terribly funny humour.Dominic Cooper tries hard to make it work, but like Johnny Depp (in the film of some years ago) fails.The problem is it just isn't a good play, & really not one worth reviving. I'm surprised that the Haymarket management thought it worth transferring to the West End. Sorry but I just found it stoggy, tedious & tiresome.
It all starts so promisingly! After weeks of thinking about booking my friend and I went for it - even splashing out on front row stalls seats for the privilege. (I say 'splashing out' but the tickets were heavily discounted from most agencies which should have been a sign...) As Dominic Cooper delivers his opening monologue - ironically informing his audience not to care about him - I couldn't see how anything could go wrong.
And, for the first act at least, it doesn't. The script it tight and witty. Cooper seems to relish the role and provides a scene-stealing performance. His supporting cast are equally fine and of a high talent. There's some truly laugh out loud moments with a side ordering of pathos and a big portion of debauchery.
And then the second act opens. It opens with a song about dildos. My prefered type of humour is dark comedy and this is the kind of thing I would normally find amusing - if not out right hilarious - yet it jars. After the intellectual yet filthy humour of act one this sets up the mish-mash tone of act two. Although it is understandable that the 'fall' of our dashing byronic hero will not be nearly as fun as watching him at the top of society it does not justify the result. The second act is slow and boring - unrelentingly so. The energy so carefully constructed and joyfully played with in act one dies completely.
The show ends on such a lifeless tone which is a shame as the first half showed such potential. Disappointing.
The star of this production is quite clearly Dominic Cooper and although a little apprehensive about how he would translate to the theatre, I was pleasantly surprised. He’s extremely engaging and quite a mesmerising performer. The rest of the cast were strong too, with maybe the exception of the wife who seemed a little wooden (performance on 26/10/16). For me, the play didn’t quite flow - it was light-hearted and funny in the first act and then got very serious towards the end. In my opinion, the screenplay was trying to do too much in one show. Worth going to see Dominic Cooper but don’t expect to leave fulfilled.
The play follows the story of John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, friend and poet of King Charles II. John lives on the edge, caring little for the people around him. He doesn't want people to like him but you are attracted to him throughout the play and strangely feel empathy for him, understanding he does these things because deep down he is unhappy with life. Not the best play I've ever seen but great acting, combined with a semi-interesting storyline and the ever endearing Dominic Cooper made it worthwhile. If you are a fan of Cooper, I wouldn't miss this opportunity to see him in his first West End show otherwise I wouldn't bother.
Went on opening night as I was able to get a seat in the middle on the third row simply because I wanted to see Dominic Cooper - who really is the star of the show. However the story is nothing as saucy as the screen grabs I have seen on Youtube from the movie starring Johnny Depp. It doesn't even make me want to wiki the Earl of Rochester because ultimately he never reached his potential. What a wasted privileged life!