The King's Players have taken a brave step showcasing a story most recently seen on the big screen with Johnny Depp in the lead role. To follow such a superstar, they were going to have to present an excellent interpretation of Stephen Jeffrey's The Libertine, the story of 17th century playboy John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.
The Libertine follows Rochester from his return from banishment from the court of the newly restored King Charles II though a debauched London filled with theatre, whores, coffee houses and wine to his decline and fall. It's a story that has it all death, disease, love, lust, fops and even a monkey, taking place on the edges of the King's court. While its subject matter is dark, it is told with humour.
After the recent luscious film, a stage version could have seemed flat. This production is anything but, with strong direction from Natasha Dawn (who also plays Elizabeth Barry) ensuring that the young cast shine. Tom Hunter's Rochester is excellent, his swagger, despair and cynicism all there in correct measure. There are strong performances across the cast, Julia Cornish and Sarah Crabtree as the other women in Rochester's life both play their roles with style. Robert Orme is also noteworthy as Charles II.
The action ends with Rochester asking 'well, do you like me now?'. The answer has to be yes.