Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Recruiting Officer.

To the Donmar this evening to see The Recruiting Officer. It's new artistic director Josie Rourke's debut show and she's rather brilliantly set her stall out with marvellous production of a too often neglected classic.

Beautifully lit with golden candle light, Farquhar's beguiling Queen Anne comedy (it was written much too late to really call it Restoration) is brought thrillingly to life by a cast who seem to revel in the chance to play such an epic adventure in this intimate space.

The story itself revolves around the arrival in Shrewsbury of Captain Plume, a rakish Tobias Menzies and his devious sidekick, Kite, brought to craggy life by MacKenzie Crook. Buoyed by success at the Battle of Blenheim they're in town looking for new soldiers. Meanwhile Plume's beloved Silvia, a plucky Nancy Carroll, dresses as a man in order to test her man. Whilst in the subplot Silvia's affected cousin Melinda, brilliantly realised by Rachel Stirling, joyfully elongates all the wrong vowels as she tries desperately to rise above her rural fortune and Mark Gatiss resurrects the full wigged fop as his popinjay Captain Brazen flounces across the stage offering affection and bravado in equal measure.

The whole show is underscored by a fun loving, four pieced folk band , who double up as Shropshire lads, sent over the hills and far away by the tricks of the recruiters. Poignantly, one by one, they march off the stage at the end, abandoning their instruments in the empty space. A sad reminder that for all the promises of glory, wine, women and song, some soldiers never return.

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