The Libertine – Citizens Theatre – Glasgow

Something a bit different for a Saturday night, eh? I’ve reached that age (old at 23) that I can’t always be bothered getting my glad rags on and staying out to three in the morning at the weekends.

Granted that I work most Saturday’s to 7 o’clock (which leaves six hours between finishing work and leaving the club). Take off an hour for getting ready and ten minutes to munch down a flapjack and a bottle of water and that’s not a whole lot of Saturday fun. Here’s a headline ‘Full-time work the great killer of the pre party drinks’.

So when proposed with the idea of going to the theatre, sitting down for a couple of hours, and not having a hangover I was blissfully happy at the thought. Plus I got to pretend to be cultural; which is something I certainly was not the previous weekend.

The Citizens Theatre from the outside gives the impression of it being a modern theatre; and in my head it was going to be more akin to a town hall than a theatre but I was pleasantly surprised. I have always had a love for all things old – hence why I was going to see The Libertine in the first place (based during the restoration period).  The interior of the theatre is nothing short of charming – to me it is what a theatre should be like.  It isn’t as big as the likes of The Theatre Royal but this adds to the atmosphere and means you get a good view.  We were seated in the front row of the dress circle.

ImagePhoto: Trip Advisor

The Libertine has been one of my favourite films for a long time so when I seen that the play in which the film was adapted from was coming to Glasgow I was quick to book tickets.  In my ignorance I hadn’t realised that the play and screenplay were written by the same person (Stephen Jeffreys); but this would explain why the play was so well executed.  The story follows the downfall of the notorious rake the Earl of Rochester during the splendour and darkness of the restoration period.  Both times taking excess to the extreme.

Rochester: Allow me to be frank at the commencement. You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on. Ladies, an announcement: I am up for it, all the time. That is not a boast or an opinion, it is bone hard medical fact. I put it round you know. And you will watch me putting it round and sigh for it. Don’t.” It is a deal of trouble for you and you are better off watching and drawing your conclusions from a distance than you would be if I got my tarse up your petticoats. Gentlemen. Do not despair, I am up for that as well. And the same warning applies. Still your cheesy erections till I have had my say. But later when you shag – and later you will shag, I shall expect it of you and I will know if you have let me down – I wish you to shag with my homuncular image rattling in your gonads. Feel how it was for me, how it is for me and ponder. ‘Was that shudder the same shudder he sensed? Did he know something more profound? Or is there some wall of wretchedness that we all batter with our heads at that shining , livelong moment.’ That is it. That is my prologue, nothing in rhyme, no protestations of modesty, you were not expecting that I hope. I am John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester and I do not want you to like me.

The character may not want you to like him but the most important skill in playing John Wilmot is to intrigue the audience into wanting to get to like him. Martin Hutson took on this task and excelled himself.    I did have my doubts that the play would fall flat when compared to the film; that the protagonist would be tame in comparison and you  do almost feel a little sorry for him as it is easy to draw parallels with modern day alcoholism and drug abuse. But, in general you dislike him and you dislike his friends for encouraging his behaviour.

The cast brought this lengthy romp to it’s climax and any fan of the film or of restoration humour will thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Rochester: So here he lies at the last. The deathbed convert. The pious debauchee. Could not dance a half measure, could I? Give me wine, I drain the dregs and toss the empty bottle at the world. Show me our Lord Jesus in agony and I mount the cross and steal his nails for my own palms. There I go, shuffling from the world. My dribble fresh upon the bible. I look upon a pinhead and I see angels dancing. Well? Do you like me now? Do you like me now? Do you like me now? Do you like me… now?