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Newbury Dramatic Society - The Recruiting Officer

28th October to 1st November 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Fortunes and war

Newbury Dramatic Society: The Recruiting Officer, at the Watermill, Bagnor, from Tuesday, October 28 to Saturday, November 1

When George Farquhar wrote The Recruiting Officer in 1706, Queen Anne was on the throne and England was at war with France. Captain Plume and Sergeant Kite are in Shrewsbury to find more recruits. Plume is a lothario, but Silvia, the magistrate’s daughter who stands to inherit a large fortune, is in love with him. Silvia’s cousin Melinda has also become very rich and is angling for Mr Worthy. To avoid Silvia’s father’s disapproval of Plume, Silvia dresses up as a man so as to enlist with Plume. To add to the complications, foppish Captain Brazen arrives on the scene and makes advances to Melinda.

The play is in the style of earlier restoration comedies, as a comedy of manners with bawdy humour, and director Ann Davidson wisely avoided over-exaggerating the characters’ mannerisms, except for those of Brazen, delightfully played by Mike Stokoe – lovely facial expressions and actions.

Mike Cole got into his stride straight away as Sergeant Kite with a powerful performance as he duped the locals (Roger Burden and Ian Martin) into enlisting. In the second act, his appearance as a fortune teller with Melinda and her maid Lucy (Zandra Forder) was one of the highlights of the show.

Jim Tubbs-Galley played Plume with panache, although he seemed a bit too nice to be a womaniser. Mike Brook was his buddy, Mr Worthy; a confident performance but needing more pizzazz.

Kathleen Ray and Elizabeth West were excellent as Melinda and Silvia. Their first scene together was beautifully done – could this have been an inspiration for Wilde’s bitchy spat between Gwendolyn and Cecily two centuries later?

Ed Tomlin, as Silvia’s father Mr Balance, played a difficult part very well, having to be severe as a judge, caring but authoritative as a father, and vacillating when dealing with Plume.

Jane Minchin and Trevor Pitman were Rose and her brother Bullock; a good comic pairing, with compliant Rose never quite getting what she wanted from her military admirers.

A rather rudimentary set was outshone by the lovely costumes from Mair Howells. Although the production would have benefited from more pace, there were some top class performances from Newbury Dramatic Society.