The Country Wife

Chandler Theatre Studio

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Five stars

Marianne Gunn

BANNED for more than 200 years, William Wycherley's restoration romp remains outrageous and subversive in this modern reimagining of his bawdy play (by final year BA Acting students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).

The multicultural reality of modern-day London living is contrasted with the simple ways of the lilting titular character, Margery Pinchwife (played immaculately by an enchanting Connie Hartley). As Act One ingenue she beguiles, although it is her Act Two homage to Fifty Shades Of Grey which may yet prove the more memorable.

There is a stark box-office warning about the adult content, and the scandalously infamous Horner is at the centre of most, if not all, of the debauchery. In the opening scene Lorne MacFadyen (a young actor to watch out for) enters as Horner, flexing his muscles and tweaking his nipples. Add some Grey Goose vodka and a smattering of playful innuendo and - lo! - he is splayed across a yoga mat, tempting married women with his perfectly packaged wares.

The supporting ensemble cast, directed by James Robert Carson, provide the perfect foils and pouting objects of lust and lecherous desire. A special mention must go to Hamish Riddle's portrayal of the ultimate cuckold, the ridiculous (and not-so-subtly named) Pinchwife. Jess Nahikian is a naturally bewitching Alithea, while Charlotte McGuinness a vampish, hypocritical and Brooke Shields-esque Lady Fidget.

A final nod to the design team (Nathalie Page and Robert Butler) for their polka-dotted yet functional twist, and to choreographer Diana Loosmore for taking my breath away with the closing "balletic" sequence to a soundtrack of Moon River. With a gentle tickling of the heartstrings, it managed to simultaneously mock and celebrate the innate foibles of humanity. Beautifully done.


The Hypochondriak

New Athenaeum Auditorium

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Three stars

Neil Cooper

As openings go, when the cast of Hector MacMillan's ribald Scots version of Moliere's 17th-century comedy, La Malade Imaginaire, come burling through the New Athenaeum auditorium led by a bagpiper before launching into an onstage ceilidh, it's a pretty strong statement of intent.

What follows in Ali de Souza's production is an accomplished and suitably larger-than-life study of how an old man called Argan can take near masochistic pleasure in his imaginary ailments. He is cured, not by quackery and a fondness for enemas, but by waking up to his own gullibility as he's taken in by his gold-digging wife Beline while attempting to marry off his daughter Angelique into the medical classes.

MacMillan's pithy and richly evocative dialogue is captured impeccably by a young cast of final-year acting students from the RCS, led by Philip Laing's physically dextrous turn as Argan, who has some fine comic interplay with Amy Conachan as Argan's maid, Toinette. As the young lovers, Sara Clark Downie and Andrew Barrett (as Angelique's beau, Cleante) run rings around their elder charges, while there is cartoon-style largesse aplenty from Katie Leung as Beline, who two-times Argan with Nebli Basani as a gallus Beralde.

There is a stream of doctors in the house in the second half of the play, as Argan is led towards his discovery. With the entire ensemble donning mortar boards and cowls for the finale, the musical number that follows as Argan ascends to Heaven wouldn't look out of place in one of Dennis Potter's works. Here's a fresh dissection of a play that looks to be in the rudest of health.