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A reviews round-up for The Libertine at Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Dominic Cooper returns to the stage in this major revival of The Libertine, directed by Terry Johnson.

Stephen Jeffreys’ play tells the story of John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester – a charismatic poet, playwright and rake with a legendary appetite for excess.

Full of flair and wit, The Libertine is billed as both a wild period piece and an incisive critique of life in an age of excess.

The Libertine runs from 22 September 2016 until 3 December 2016 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Here’s a round-up of reviews from The Guardian, Time Out, Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph and The Stage.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Guardian

“Dominic Cooper is riveting as rakish hero.. totally commanding.”

“Cooper is totally commanding as Rochester. He lends the character a brooding inwardness so that, even in the midst of his boorish boozing and debauchery, you feel there is a speculative mind at work. Cooper doesn’t play for sympathy, but allows the audience to make its own moral judgment about a complicated hero. He is extremely well supported by Ophelia Lovibond as the independent-minded Mrs Barry, Alice Bailey Johnson as Rochester’s rusticated wife and Jasper Britton, who plausibly makes Charles II a tetchy hedonist.”

“The play may be too lewd for prudes, but it offers an invigorating, warts-and-all portrait of a self-destructive sceptic.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Dominic Cooper is great in this oddly dour Restoration romp but one problem with Jeffreys’s play is that almost nobody around Wilmot has any sort of depth whatsoever: they’re just bewigged caricatures of Restoration fops and tarts (though here Jasper Britton is very good as a deceptively deadly Charles II).”

“The other problem is that it’s tonally inconsistent. Formally it nods to Restoration comedy and both halves start in a shower of delightful naughtiness (the first Wilmot’s brilliant monologue, the second a lengthy song about dildos). But in each half director Terry Johnson runs out of funny material to get his teeth into.”

Andrezej Lukowski, TimeOut

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Terry Johnson’s revival has energy and charm, with Tim Shortall’s design evoking the period’s extravagant fashions. But what’s missing is a sense of real danger. Rochester’s debauchery never exactly feels rampant, and the world he inhabits could seem more fascinatingly filthy.”

“Although Cooper guarantees a degree of smouldering allure, the atmosphere of The Libertine isn’t sexy enough.”

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“Rochester lived fast and died young, at 33, of the pox and alcoholism. Cooper has a certain glowering magnificence, a sleepy-eyed air of command, but his delivery inclines to the tee-total, the gravely monotone.”

“When the rakish anti-hero drawls out the lines “I rise at eleven: I dine about two; I get drunk before seven and the next thing I do, I send for my whore…” we should be assailed by a canter of self-celebration and self-disgust. Instead we get a recitation of lines, an ebbing of energy.”

“If you go seeking after the elixir of lusty excitement you may end up feeling you’ve but quaffed a cup of Earl Grey.”

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Stage

“Exuberant revival of a play that is part-historical drama and part-comic demonstration of men behaving badly”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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