Back to Seen From Archives
(images are for reference only, see the sources below)
“The Recruiting Officer”, a 1706 play by the Irish writer George Farquhar
Recorded at the Donmar Warehouse, 6 April 2013.
Available at the Victoria & Albert Museum Archive by appointment:
Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, London W14 0QX
Mixed recording (4 cameras). 2 DVD. 143 min: 84 Act I + 59 Act II.
Stage director: Josie Rourke
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Mackenzie Crook (Sergeant Kite),
Tom Giles (Castar Pearmain / Woodwind),
Stuart Ward (Bridewell / Guitar),
Tobias Menzies (Captain Plume),
Nicholas Burns (Mr Worthy),
Rachael Stirling (Melinda),
Nancy Carroll (Silvia),
Kathryn Drysdale (Lucy),
Gawn Grainger (Justice Balance),
Matthew Romain (Thomas Appletree / Violin),
Aimée-Ffion Edwards (Rose / Mary),
Peter Manchester (Bullock / Double bass / Mandolin / Guitar / Ukelele),
Mark Gatiss (Captain Brazen),
Chris Grahamson (Scale / Percussion / Ukelele).
The play was on at the Donmar Warehouse, London, 9 February – 14 April 2012.
I saw it Wednesday 8 October 2014 afternoon from h 15,00.
“The Recruiting Officer” is an exhilarating play based on the real experience of the writer, that shows how the military recruitment worked at that time and the relationship between soldiers of different rank and the women around them, in a sort of war between sexes, a matter that we find in many plays of the classic repertory.
I wonder if Mr. Farquhar learned the lesson from Shakespeare, because there are some details in common with his comedies.
The mixed recording and the good quality of the material allow the viewer to have a good experience watching the DVDs, with both scenic views and close-ups.
Music and songs are a nice interlude between the scenes.
To me, with no intention to diminish the story, the play has in its cast its main attraction.
I would have seen it live on stage, mostly because of the duets between Rachael Stirling and Mark Gatiss, two actors who are perfect for comedy and can sustain the scene just with their presence. They both performed like if they were drunk, swinging and hanging around in every scene they were in: Rachael with her strong voice in opposition to her dishy figure and Mark with his affected manners and funny make-up.
Not forgetting the support of a fine cast.
I recognized some of them from TV series, where they usually play secondary characters, and I’m glad they had more space here and I could appreciate their good performances, like Mackenzie Crook, Tobias Menzies and Nicholas Burns, just to mention some. Aimée-Ffion Edwards also got a lovely voice.
Lucky people who went to see this play live!
Some notes about the staging.
Set design: from what I saw from the recording, despite there are rich costumes, the staging is quite simple, the boundary is made by candles in line on columns and on chandeliers above, with clouds in the background, a staircase and few scenaries; the centre of the stage is empty.
Costumes and make-up: typical ‘700 style in the rich detailed dresses, make-up and hairstyle, very accurate. Especially Rachael Stirling, in a gorgeous yellow dress, is a pleasure for the eyes!
Soundtrack: music made with some typical instruments of the ‘700 like violins and drums, some members of the cast also sing songs.
Donmar Warehouse Official Site, page with information, video and gallery: donmarwarehouse.com
Donmar Warehouse “The Recruiting Officer” Study Guide in pdf: donmarwarehouse.com
Victoria & Albert Museum Archive Official Site: vam.ac.uk
Rachael Stirling Official Website “The Recruiting Officer” page, with pictures, clips and reviews: rachael-stirling.com
Donmar Warehouse Official Youtube Channel ‘The Recruiting Officer’ at the Donmar – rehearsal preview: donmarwarehouse