GEORGE Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer was one of the first plays chosen by the newly-formed National Theatre 50 years ago, and clips from it have been popular highlights in the various television programmes about the anniversary, with Maggie Smith as the plucky Sylvia and Laurence Olivier as the braggart coward Brazen.
The exposure should be a boost for Salisbury Playhouse’s excellent production, on now until 23rd November.
Gareth Machin’s Salisbury production, played on a versatile set designed by Tom Rogers and performed by actor-musicians playing songs of the period and original music by Kate Edgar, is a sheer delight.
The ten actors, most playing a variety of minor roles as well as their main parts, circle the auditorium as various soldiers, recruits and townsfolk, all talented instrumentalists.
Set in Shrewsbury in the early autumn of 1704, the play starts as the dashing recruiting officer Plume returns to the town where he successfully sowed his wild oats on an earlier visit, accompanied by his accommodating sergeant, Kite.
There he meets his friend Worthy, formerly a bit of a rake but now brought to submission by love for the newly-enriched Melinda, who is also courted by a second recruiting officer, Brazen.
Plume is in love with Melinda’s cousin Sylvia, daughter of the local magistrate, Balance. But father thinks Sylvia could do better than the locally-famous young spark.
By the time that Melinda’s maid Rose has forged a few signatures, Brazen has been deservedly set up, and Sylvia has disguised herself as Capt. Wilful, it all comes out right in the end in this classic late Restoration Farquhar romp, written just before his other masterpiece, The Beaux Stratagem (with which it has much in common).
The Recruiting Officer is the play that the convicts in Our Country’s Good are attempting to stage.
The company was thrown into some disarray when Jem Wall withdrew from the important role of Kite. Director Gareth Machin stepped in for three performances, after which the Playhouse regular Tim Treslove took over. He had just finished a run with Forest Forge’s Free Folk, but, happily, had played Kite before, and was able to step in seamlessly for the second week of the Salisbury production. And as all Tim’s many local fans know, he’s also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist.
Recent graduate Jennifer Kirby makes a brilliant debut as Sylvia, using all her female and adopted male wiles to get her man, the very appealing Babou Ceesay as Plume.
David Charles is a hilarious Brazen, all obsequiousness and tall stories.
Don’t miss this stylish and hilarious show, the perfect antidote to the incursions of winter.