“YOU will not like me”, Dominic Cooper, in his guise as John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester warns the audience, all the while surreptitiously currying favour in The Libertine’s crude and bawdy opening monologue.

This witty if graphic record of his trysts and debauchery, not to mention his gratuitous references to his genitalia in action, sets up from the offing the Earl as a rake of the first order, foulmouthed, hedonistic, contemptible but hugely charismatic.

The notorious poet and inveterate narcissist’s excesses and weaknesses are storied. After all, he is the aristocrat who posed for a portrait, perriwigged and in all his fineries with a monkey by his side – a heavy-handed indictment and mockery of his peers if ever there was one!

Based on true events, Stephen Jeffreys’s The Libertine charts Wilmot’s decadent existence – painting him as a tragic hero more often than not – as he navigates his conflicting urges, self-destructive impulses and increasingly cynical and disillusioned view of his own transgressions.

Jeffreys is a master wordsmith and seamlessly hops from pathos and hugely tense scenes to pure unadulterated filth – bringing in sharp contrast Wilmot’s contradictions, disregard for propriety and eagerness to shock. The raunchy sing-song in which the female cast perform a little dance totting sex aids was quite something. What, I can’t quite say exactly, but this will go down as one of the most hysterical and baffling pieces of theatre ever to hit the Bath stage.

Cooper is faultless as the Restoration rogue and delivers a nuanced portrait of a deeply flawed, self-destructive yet irresistible man whose erratic pursuit of pleasure can only ever be ephemeral.

The supporting cast match him in every way. Ophelia Lovibond dazzles as his love interest, actress Elizabeth Barry as does Nina Toussaint-White as no-nonsense prostitute Jane. They both at times overshadow Cooper himself.

There are undeniably some lengths and The Libertine may be a tad more staid than advertised, considering, but these are only minor niggles.

One thing is certain, you’ll be hard-pressed not to succumb to Wilmot’s charm, warts and all.

The Libertine runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until September 17.