As far as shows set during the Regency era go, Christian Brighty’s Playboy is not only the most ambitious, but also the best representation of dramas set in this period. This show breathes new life into the genre, mixing classicism with modernity. Putting his own twist on well-known classics, Brighty uses an astonishing amount of wit and the sheer force of his talent creates a regency-period (lust) story that we are only too eager to get behind.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of Lord Christian Brighty’s antics on the stage
Co-written by Amy Greaves and directed by Ben Clark, Playboy tells the tale of Lord Christian Brighty (played by Christian Brighty), a rake that would have even shocked Byron. After deciding to change his ways and find love, Lord Brighty meets the Duchess Jessica (voiced by Amy Greaves) at a ball and sets out on a quest to be worthy of her hand and win her father’s approval. In this high-spirited tale of lust and love, we are forced to question our own assumptions and romanticisation of the behaviours, characters and tropes that we are so used to seeing between the pages of books and on our screens.
There has never been a show quite like Playboy. It challenges us and the dominant narratives and stereotypes that are hidden by the distance that period dramas create, and we have Brighty and Greaves to thank for it; Brighty for conquering and leaning into the over exaggerated personality of Lord Christian, and Greaves for her voice of reason. The use of language to nudge us into a joke to win us over - from outright euphemism and over exaggeration to subtle changes and references - is the kind of astonishing devic that makes you sit for a minute to process the joke because of how unbelievably clever it is; the kind that stays with you for weeks after, that you remember when your mind wanders and makes you shake your head and smile. That is the power of Lord Christian Brighty.
Brighty plays with our expectations, punning his way through the show, which only serves to emphasize the originality of the story by twisting well-known cultural moments and making them his own. We expect him to be the romantic lead, and because of this we excuse his behavior towards us because despite his obvious flaws, we don’t have a reason to expect him to be unreliable. After all, he’s the charming, snobbish and morally gray character that we have been taught to love.
We’re drawn to the character, to the overly Byronic nature – lake scene and all – of Lord Christian, because there is a hope that he will become a Mr Darcy, a character that we have consistently been taught is the ideal. And although at times the story is fantastical and ridiculous, as evidenced by the array of props that Brighty uses – from Cupid’s arrows to letters delivered by penguins and the whole navy episode – we cannot help but be enchanted. It’s a Regency-era comedy featuring a character who has been honest about exactly how awful he is, but we root for him because we believe he can change for love. We know this story all too well, it draws us in despite how riddled it is with red flags, but we don’t notice because Brighty’s spark hides them beneath a layer of luxurious debauchery and swagger. It is frankly impressive how much we excuse the actions of the character, but this is exactly the problem that Brighty’s Playboy is trying to highlight. In his own way, Brighty is teaching us to recognise and challenge problematic stereotypes, giving us tools that we can put to use in our own lives and relationships.
Brighty and Greaves have made their mark and set the standard for what we should expect from Regency period comedies and dramas going forwards. A tale as old as time, Playboy is a great homage to the works and aesthetic of the Regency era. Hopefully this is just the beginning of Lord Christian Brighty’s antics on the stage.