George Farquhar

Intrigue and Satire: Later Restoration Comedies

Intrigue and Satire: Later Restoration Comedies

11 BBC Radio Full Cast Productions including The Recruiting Officer and The Way of the World and more


A dazzling collection of comedies from the later Restoration period

England's 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 and the reign of new monarchs William and Mary signified a turning point for Restoration comedy with laws being passed to restrict playwrights' freedoms. The latter years are marked by a shift towards more moral storylines, mixing humour with social and political issues, alongside the lighthearted 'comedy of manners'.

The works in this collection bring together these complementary styles, full of humour while also focusing on hard hitting themes. We open with a 1688 piece by Aphra Behn, England's first professional female writer. Oroonoko is a powerful critique of the slave trade centring around a betrayed African prince. Adapted for BBC Radio, it stars Leo Wringer.

A pre-eminent Restoration dramatist, William Congreve was renowned for his witty dialogue and brilliant characterisation, exemplified in the plays The Old Bachelor, The Double-Dealer and Love for Love. As heard on BBC Radio, these sparkling satirical portraits of romance, deception and the battle of the sexes star James Dale, Nicholas Parsons, Michael Spice and Maxine Audley.

In her 1696 tragedy The Royal Mischief playwright and pamphleteer Delarivier Manley tackled gender politics rather than party politics. This BBC Radio adaptation stars Sian Thomas as the transgressive princess Homais, whose unrestrained sexual desire represents a threat to both the monarchy and the patriarchy.

A loveless marriage is under the spotlight in The Provok'd Wife, John Vanburgh's outspoken 1697 comedy of sex, debauchery and revenge that is Restoration comedy at its finest. Saskia Reeves stars as Lady Brute, with Julian Rhind-Tutt as confirmed bachelor Heartfree.

Irish playwright George Farquhar stormed the London stage with his 1699 comedy The Constant Couple, featuring a wealthy heiress seeking revenge, and the three rivals vying for her hand. Its popularity was mainly due to its rakish hero, Sir Harry Wildair, played in this BBC dramatisation by Alec Clunes. It is followed by William Congreve's The Way of the World, a comic masterpiece that exposes the grasping falsity of fashionable London society. Sheila Hancock stars, with Alex Jennings, Robert Glenister, Frances Barber and Indira Varma.

Susanna Centilivre's 1705 comedy The Basset Table explores several hot topics of the time: the rise of science, gambling and female education. Featuring two strong, independent heroines determined to dodge unwanted marriages, this delightfully exuberant comedy stars Eleanor Bron and Danielle Allan.

Concluding this collection are George Farquhar's two most popular plays. The Recruiting Officer, starring Paul Higgins and Lisa Dillon, is set in Shrewsbury during the War of the Spanish Succession, where wives are recruited while soldiers are wooed. Meanwhile, in The Beaux' Stratagem, starring Simon Treves and Dale Rapley, two rakes arrive in Lichfield from London in search of fortune...

Content list

First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 24 August 1990

The Old Bachelor
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 3 Jun 1966

The Double-Dealer
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 17 Jan 1969

Love for Love
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 18 Feb 1965

The Royal Mischief
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 28 Oct 1990

The Provok'd Wife
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 12 Dec 2004

The Constant Couple
First broadcast BBC Network Three, 9 Jun 1967

The Way of the World
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 27 Apr 2003

The Basset Table
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 10 Aug 1990

The Recruiting Officer
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 18 Dec 2011

The Beaux' Stratagem
First broadcast BBC Radio 3, 19 Feb 1990

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