The Soldier's Fortune

by Thomas Otway

directed by Barbara Pollard and Adrian Vinson

Performed at the

Nuffield Theatre

on

6th to 9th May 1970

Adrian and Barbara wrote:

Thomas Otway was born in 1652, the son of a Sussex clergyman.  He was educated at Winchester College, and then at Oxford, which he left without a degree, due to poverty, on his father's death.  Moving to London, he turned first to acting,, at which he was a notable failure, and then to playwriting, at which he was a moderate success.  He fell in love with Elizabeth Barry, an actress in his first play, who was to become the English stage's first leading lady.  Though Otway's attentions persisted for seven years, Mrs Barry consistently ignored them, bestowing her favours instead on his patron, the Earl of Rochester, and on his fellow playwright Sir George Etherege.

In 1678, financially embarrassed and emotionally frustrated, Otway obtained a commission in an English regiment serving under Louis XIV in the Flemish wars  The conclusion of a sudden peace resulted in the disbandment of the regiment, and the officers were paid off in virtually worthless bonds.  It is just this situation in which Beauregpad and Courtine are placed in the opening of "The Soldier's Fortune", and in their raillery against fortune and the 'stay-at-homes' who deride them, Otway's 'heroes' are the mouthpiece for his own bitterness and humiliation.

'The Solider's Fortune' is autobiographical in another sense.  Its principal theme is the war between the sexes, and the absurdities and injustices of current marriage conventions.  At its first production, in 1681, 'The Soldier's Fortune' was attacked as offensive to women, whose guile is central to the plot.  Otway's barbed and ambivalent attitude to women and marriage is surely a product of his unrequited passion for Mrs Barry, who played Lady Dunce.

If Otway's wit does not match the brilliance of Congreve or Wycherley, the comic success of 'The Soldier's Fortune' is derived from his firm grasp of farcical situation, and from the characterisation of the two grotesque knights, Sir Jolly Jumble and Sir Davy Dunce.  The latter, like much of the plot itself, reveals the author's close reliance on the style, and even the material of Moliere.  The farcical element, combined with the distinctively ironic social comment, render 'The Soldier's Fortune' particuarly approrpriate for revival at a time when 'black comedy' is an acknowledged dramatic form.

In 1682, Otway produced his first play - 'Venice Preserved'. the most distinguished tragedy of the period.  In its scorn for contemporary value this play presents a starker mirror for the attitudes which underlie the comedy of  'The Soldier's Fortune'.  Otway sold the copyright of  'Venice Preserved'  for a mere £15, and in 1685, at the age of thirty-three, he died in poverty, reputedly choking on a crust of bread in the pangs of starvation.

Cast  
Captain Beauregard, a disbanded officer John Mitchell
Courtine, his companion Stephen Rake
Fourbin, servant to Beauregard Ray Green
Sir Jolly Jumble Roy Purkis
Whores Jennifer Rodway, Nancy Hine, Jennifer Booth
Lady Dunce, wife to Sir Davy Dunce Joy Steel
Sylvia, her niece Miriam Rose
Maid Georgina Bennett
Sir Davy Dunce David Bartlett
Frisk David Phillips
Vermin, servant to Sir Davy Dunce Kenneth Hann
Landlord David Phillips
Bloody-Bones Peter White
Constable Peter White
Watch Michael Shailer
Citizens Keith Hooper, Ivan White

 

For the Maskers:  
Technical Director Ron Tillyer
Stage Managers Tony Miles, Ron Avery
Stage Assistants John Lelliott, John Young
Lighting Roger Lockett, Geoff Callow, Colin Jurd
Sound Geoff Grandy
Wardrobe Sonia Morris
Wardrobe Assistants Jo Bartlett, Jill Buchanan, Libby Cleaver, Liz Collings, Wendy Cooke
Properties Sonia Morris, Patricia Nickell, Jenny Rodway, Jenny Edwards
Production Secretary Sandra Crook
Production Assistants Betty Riggs, Gillian Marvin
Publicity Michael Shailer
Music Malcolm Wilcock, Rosamund Williams
 

click on a photo to enlarge it

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Pete White and Ray Green “Did you ever eat a man's heart Sir?”
Pete White, Joy Steel, Roy Purkiss
Georgina Bennett, John Mitchell, Joy Steel, Roy Purkis
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