The Relapse

by John Banbrugh

directed by Ken Hann

Performed at the

Nuffield Theatre


Tuesday 13th to Saturday 17th January 2004

The Relapse or Virtue in Danger, was written as a response to Colley Cibber’s Reform comedy Love’s Last Shift, and was Vanbrugh's first performed play. It was completed after his extended travels abroad as an architect to the aristocracy – which might explain his unusually non-judgmental (that’s to say, atypically British) approach to sex. Vanbrugh has a mellow, rough sexiness and an easy cynicism which must have cut through the period’s relentlessly sentimental treatment of comedy. He deals with one essential transaction in The Relapse, from which all the comedy spools: the Widow Berinthia, a thorough hypocrite but a sophisticated and modest woman, tries to set up her married cousin Amanda with Worthy, a young buck-about-town, so that she might find peace and time to enjoy Loveless, Amanda’s bored husband. A subplot concerns the perilous and devious scheme by one brother to marry the other’s intended in order to reap her considerable fortune. All this clambering ambition, both social and sexual, is epitomised in the absurd Lord Foppington. For Vanburgh, he represents its apotheosis, its supreme grotesqueness. This is a man, who after blowing a fortune in order to acquire a prestigious barony, feels moved to announce: ‘Tis an unspeakable pleas-ahh to a man of high quah-lit-ay, strike me speechless. While I was a knight I w-ahs a very nauh-sous fellow! Well, it’s worth L10,000 well spent, stap me vitals!’.

Despite the title of this play, there is very little virtue to worry about. Vanbrugh revelled in the narcissism, affection and vanity of his characters. But his plays, like his architectural statements, are calculated counterblasts to his period’s obsession with everything sentimental.


The Relapse is a fine example of a restoration comedy, being full of amorous intrigue, greed and self interest. The plot has elements of modern farce and pantomime with confusions and gross characterisations aplenty.

I decided to update it slightly to the early 1800s, the final period of excess and liberal morals before the Victorians brought a veneer of respectability and social restraint upon the population. The inspiration came from seeing a cartoon of the time by George Cruikshank. This was a time when the extravagantly dressed Bucks, so full of their own importance, held sway giving ample opportunity for Lord Foppington to literally "lord it" above everyone else.

My initial idea has been cleverly interpreted by John Hamon designing a set to echo the cartoon and Serena Brown developing a costume style to complement the extravagance.
But above all, it is just great fun!
None of the characters are very nice as they are all out to maximise their own interests., but somehow you just cannot help liking them.

In the words of Coupler "Enjoy our play!"

Ken Hann

Lord Foppington John Souter
Tom Fashion Brian Stansbridge
Loveless Andrew Smith
Amanda Joanna Iacovou
Worthy Ian Morley
Berinthia Nicky Housham
Sir Tunbelly David Jupp
Miss Hoyden Hannah Stansbridge
Nurse Avril Woodward
Sir John David Pike
Coupler Albie Minns
Bull Graham Buchanan
Syringe John Carrington
Lory Jez Smith
Cabby David Pike
Tailor/Shoemaker etc. Hazel Burrows
Tunbelly's Servant John Carrington
For the Maskers
The Director Ken Hann
Production Manager Angie Stansbridge
Costumes Seren Brown
Stage Manager Angie Barks
Assistant Stage Manager Matt Bundey
Sound Martin Clift
Props Ella Lockett, Gill Buchanan
Design John Hamon


click on a photo to enlarge it


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Off Emsworth Road
SO15 3LX

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Established 1968

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