Do3 - Farquhar: The Recruiting Officer
Sunday 18 December:
"During a lull in the War of the Spanish Succession, Captain Plume comes to Shrewsbury, to seduce soldiers into the army, and - if possible - recruit Silvia into marriage.
The Recruiting Officer enjoyed enormous success and popular acclaim during the eighteenth century, when it was produced more often than any other play, outstripping its nearest rival, Hamlet, by a wide margin. The play also holds the honour of being the first piece of theatre ever to be produced in Australia, with a cast of convicts and officers, an event described by Thomas Keneally in his book The Playmaker, and then dramatised by Timberlake Wertenbaker in her play, Our Country's Good."
[Our Country's Good is next weekend's Radio 4 Saturday Play]
The play is also Josie Rourke's inaugural production at the Donmar Warehouse in February - April 2012.
My heart sinks when I see a Restoration comedy come round in the Do3 slot. I can't help feeling that these are generally just a posh form of Carry On - but duller. Perhaps someone can convince me there is more to this one but I doubt I'll be listening.
I suppose this was Do3's 'christmas panto' offering, and as aeolium predicted, it did come across as a Carry On. Despite the well-crafted language, I found my interest waning severely after an hour.
I certainly listened. Restoration Comedy doesn't have the rewards of the language of Shakespeare while nevertheless requiring the full concentration. With plot being so forward it's also a bit more difficult to follow on radio. I began to differentiate the voices after a while but before that Plume/Worthy, Sylvia/Melinda and sundry rustic voices were a bit confusing.
It's a slightly rowdy, slightly bawdy romp which from a cultural point of view is 'important' because it was so popular and appreciated in its own time. I'd probably upgrade it from 'Carry On' to Alan Ayckbourn, but neither are much to my taste.
"Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire
Show'd us that France had something to admire.
Not but the tragic spirit was our own,
And full in Shakespeare, fair in Otway shone ...
...Some doubt, if equal pains, or equal fire
The humbler Muse of comedy require.
But in known images of life, I guess
The labour greater, as th' indulgence less.
Observe how seldom ev'n the best succeed:
Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed?
What pert, low dialogue has Farqu'ar writ!"