034 – The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar
It is 1704 in the country town of Shrewsbury. The army has come to town, or at least a few dedicated officers fresh from victory at the Battle of Blenheim who are here to recruit as many of the local men as they can connive to sign up to serve. While they’re at it, they don’t mind enjoying the pleasures of the local hostelries and of the local ladies. In turn the local ladies are also seeking to recruit for themselves: a husband who will take them away to fortunes new or be corralled to stay and support them and the offspring they plan, or in some cases have already been provided with.
This is George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, a rollicking comic satire of love and war, sex and deception, complete with singing and poetry and a woman pretending to be a man to win the love of her man. The play was an immediate hit when it was first performed at Drury Lane in 1706, and went on to become one of the most frequently performed plays of the 18th century, as well as a staple of educational curricula and theatre programming ever since.
There is also a personal reason for my choosing this play for this episode, and inviting my guest, director Matt Beresford, to join me. On the day that we recorded our conversation, Matt was in the final days of rehearsal for a production of The Recruiting Officer which he is directing for our local theatre, and he has been gracious enough to allow me to assist him in this project. If you happen to listen to our conversation before the 25th or 26th of September (2021), and are inspired to do so, you can still catch our production at the Teddington Theatre Club’s theatre in Hampton Hill, southwest London: click here for information and tickets.
Matt Beresford is a director, speaker, trainer and leadership coach. He spent fifteen years working in business, before re-training as a Theatre Director at RADA, followed by an MA at St. Mary’s, University of London. He has directed a series of plays on the London fringe, including the first London revival of Rona Munro’s classic prison drama Iron at the Old Red Lion. He has also directed a number of productions for the amateur stage, including a wonderful production of Wind in the Willows for Teddington Theatre.
He also continues to combine his business and theatre experience to coach teams and senior executives on communication skills and leadership and is passionate about exploring the parallels between theatre directing and creative leadership in business.
Matt recommended Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.
The Footnotes to our episode on George Farquhar’s classic Restoration Drama The Recruiting Officer include observations on the multiple meanings of the play’s title, and the extraordinary story of its first production in Australia in 1789.
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Published 4th December
Lynn Nottage’s play Clyde’s is set in a truck-stop diner on the outskirts of Reading, Pennsylvania. This is no ordinary diner though, because the short-order cooks that make the sandwiches that the diner is famous for are all ex-cons. But the eponymous proprietor, Clyde, has not offered these characters a second chance out of the softness of her heart.
Lynn Nottage has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama twice, and as we record this episode the European preview of Clyde’s is on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in London. I am delighted to be joined by the show’s director Lynette Linton, who also directed Nottage’s last play Sweat at the same theatre in 2018.
The poet Percy Shelley called King Lear “the most perfect specimen of the dramatic art existing in the world”. It is a prodigious play in every sense. There are ten major roles, it has multiple significant plot lines, an elemental stormy setting, intense domestic conflict, and acts of war and violence which roll on with a propulsive tragic energy and conjure a challenging philosophical vision.
As we record this episode a new production directed by and starring Sir Kenneth Branagh arrives in London’s West End.
I am very pleased to be joined in this episode by Paul Prescott, who is an academic, writer and theatre practitioner specialising in Shakespearean drama.
Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who works on the docks under Brooklyn Bridge. Eddie lives with his wife Beatrice and 17-year old niece, Catherine, whom they have cared for since she was a child. But Catherine is no longer a child, and her natural desire to pursue her own life will tragically rupture the lives of this family and the close-knit immigrant community of Red Hook.
As we record this episode a new production of A View from the Bridge is touring the UK, and I’m delighted to talk with its director, Holly Race Roughan, about this powerful play.