A play by Stephen Jeffreys
A play about John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, a notorious rake and libertine poet in the court of King Charles II of England. We meet Rochester and his Merry Gang, always on the lookout for drink, debauchery and a good time. Rochester is often out of King Charles’ favour because of his hedonism and disdain for social order, but is restored in order to help Charles in the House of Lords. The Merry Gang attend a play where the actress Elizabeth Barry is booed off the stage, refusing to participate in a curtain call, and is fired. Rochester is taken with Barry, secures her re-employment with the theatre company, and undertakes to coach her in acting. Barry’s acting improves dramatically and she delivers a brilliant performance in her next production. Wilmot and Barry become lovers. King Charles II is torn between his affection for Wilmot and the danger posed by his displays of contempt for his sovereign. Themes explored in the play include the corruption of a people by their self-indulgent monarch and the pursuit of hedonism.