The Recruiting Officer

by George Farquhar

directed by Ken Spencer

Performed at

Mottisfont Abbey


18th to 27th July 1991

George Farquhar spent much of his short life in close proximity to war. He was born in Ireland in 1677, and his birthplace, Derry, became the stronghold of the Northern Protestants in their revolt against James II. His father was a clergymen whose Rectory was burnt down by James' Army in 1689. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin, and briefly acted at The Smock Alley Theatre, where he met the great comedian Robert Wilks, for whom later on he wrote many leading parts. By the age of 22 he had made a considerable reputation but bad days followed. His debts mounted, his plays failed, and he married a penniless woman in the belief she was an heiress. In 1704 the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland commissioned him as a Lieutenant of Grenadiers, which must have helped to keep his family and please his mistresses. He was sent on recruiting duty to Lichfield and Shrewsbury; Acts of Parliament in 1703-5 empowered Justices of the Peace "to raise and levy such able-bodied men as have not any lawful calling or employment, or visible means for their maintenance and livelihood, to serve as soldiers". The openings for corruption were many. As a recruiting officer you could get a man drunk, slip some of the Queen's money into his pocket, and claim that he was thereby "listed". From this experience Farquhar produced an autobiographical play - the only Restoration comedy of note whose whole action is set in the country away from the nobility and coffee houses of London. It was staged at Drury Lane in April 1706, with clamorous success. He subsequently wrote one more play; The Beaux Strategem presented in 1707. In April of the same year, aged 29 he died of TB in a garret overlooking St Martins Lane.

Transvestite Notes

Female characters who posed as men and actresses who played male parts were popular throughout the Restoration period, when they were known as "breeches parts". The fashion continued through the 18th and 19th centuries including Sarah Siddons playing Hamlet and in 1899, Sarah Bernhardt doing likewise. But in Farquhar's day, transvestism was more than a theatrical joke; there were real Silvias in the armed forces. Indeed a direct parallel is the story of Christian Davies (1667-1739), who enlisted in the English Army in Flanders, fighting in the Battle of Landen and subsequently injured in the Battle of Donauworth. She had gone into breeches in search of her husband, who had been pressed into service after only four years of marriage. She was ordered to guard some prisoners, and while doing so, suddenly spotted her husband, from whom she had been separated for thirteen years. So deep was her passion for military life that she made him promise to pass her off as his brother, but in a later battle her skull was fractured by a shell and the surgeons discovered her true sex. She was dismissed from the service, but contiued to follow her husband until he was killed at Malplaquet in 1709. After another military marriage she was presented to Queen Anne in 1712 who granted her a life pension.

Cast (in order of appearance)
Sergeant Kite Ken Spencer
Captain Plume, the Recruiting Officer Andrew Easton
Mr Worthy, a Country Gentleman Robbie Carnegie
Melinda, a Lady of Fortune Catherine Nolan
Silvia, Daughter of Balance, in love with Plume Belinda Drew
Luey, Melinda’s Maid Hazel Burrows
Mr Balance, a Country Justice David Bartlett
Mistress Goody, his Housekeeper Brenda Atkinson
Costar Pearmain Kevin Mitchell
Thomas Appletree Ian Morley
Rose, a Country Wench Debbie Moorhouse
Bullock, her Brother Martin Caveney
Captain Brazen Brian Stansbridge
Bridewell, a Constable David Pike
Justice Scale Michael Patterson
Justice Scruple Tony Bull
The Local Populace (and others!) Bruce Atkinson, Kate Atkinson, Christine Baker, Mark Bence, Richard Cole, Anya Cook, Gail Greensmith, Michael Hough, Graham Hill, Jenny Martin, Pam Simpson
For the Maskers
Director Ken Spencer
Technical Director Ron Tillyer
Stage Manager Angela Barks
Assistant Stage Manager Julia Campone
Lighting Design Ron Tillyer
Lighting Operator Alison Mountford
Sound Lawrie Gee, Adrian Plaw
Property Mistress Philippa Taylor, Jan Ward, Stephanie Taylor
Master Carpenter Chris Finbow
Crew Andrew Buldery, Mark Harvey, Clive Weeks, Kevin Hughes, Larry Bartel, Mike Turner
Wardrobe Mistress Fran Morley with Jane Royle
Costume Hire Torbay Costume Hire, Hampshire Wardrobe
Wigs Showbiz of Southampton
Business Manager Michael Patterson



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