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The pleasure of sex, science, poetry & politics!


Review by Emma Whitelaw

LIKE any good mother, the Earl of Rochester’s worried about the influences her son’s peers would have upon his livelihood. Only unlike most good mother’s she had even more cause for concern as her son’s peers were none other than the wickedly decadent court of Charles II!

The Ministry of Pleasure, currently showing at the Latchmere Theatre, is an extraordinary piece of theatre based on the life of the infamous Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot.

The men and women of the recently restored court were extremely liberal. There were no holds barred when it came to love, lust and marriage. The King himself condoned extramarital behaviour and had at least one lover of whom his wife was well aware. It seems the court enjoyed all that their counterparts, the Protestants were against. And if they didn’t partake in such naughtiness; they certainly tolerated it.

We are first introduced to the Earl of Rochester, played brilliantly by Martin Delany, at his father’s funeral. Like his father, the Earl wishes to serve his King and country, much to his mother's dismay.

She has already lost her husband to the wicked ways of the King and knows exactly what her son will be exposed to. When Rochester tells her he is to go to London she warns him of the danger of the damnation of his soul. She tells him to stay true to God.

Rochester should have taken his mother’s advice as he soon falls for the temptations before him and this in turns leads to his eventual downfall.

Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis plays Charles II brilliantly. The King is fascinated by science, he is a keen astronomer and has a laboratory in which he conducts many experiments. When Rochester comes to his court he proposes an experiment in the derivation of human pleasure and announces that Rochester new title shall be the Minister of Pleasure.

Amongst the cast, the most notable performance would have been that given by Amy Humphreys. She played three parts throughout the show and all of them were done flawlessly. Her accents were fantastic, and her ability to play such diverse characters is a credit to her training.

The costuming was fabulous, I enjoy a good period piece and even more so when the costumes are such fine replicas. The set design was also excellent, as was the sound. The use of echoes whilst the King and Rochester enjoyed a game of tennis was both very clever and believable.

The Ministry of Pleasure is a hilariously witty satire and much like its hero Rochester, it is guaranteed to show you a good time!

The Ministry of Pleasure by Craig Baxter. Directed by Stuart Mullins. Starring Martin Delaney, Frida Show, Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis, Charlotte Fields, Amy Humphreys, Neil Summerville, Sean Patterson and Robert Gillespie. June 6 - 27, 2004 at the Latchmere Theatre, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11. Box Office 020 7978 7040.

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