For their final production before the Christmas season, Salisbury Playhouse turns to Restoration comedy. After a successful year, Gareth Machin concludes with a strong production of George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer.
The play is set in Shrewsbury in 1704, and the cast strides through the auditorium playing "Over the Hills and Far Away". Army Captain Plume and Sergeant Kite are in town on the hunt for recruits. During the play they pull off all sorts of off-hand tricks in order to recruit some men.
At the same time Babou Cessay's buoyant Plume has his eye on the daughter of the town magistrate, Silvia. His friend, local gentleman Worthy, has fallen for Silvia's cousin, Melinda. It does not help that she has gained the attentions of Captain Brazen. David Charles is quite the dapper officer as Brazen, and his confrontations with David Partridge as Worthy are hilarious.
Then there are the women. Emma Williams acts the contemptuous Melinda who wants everything her own way. Jennifer Kirby, on the other hand, is plain and outspoken as Silvia. She plays the part of a man convincingly when she becomes Jack Wilful and joins Plume's army. Another notable performance is Gemma Soul as Rose. A lusty country girl, she is wooed by Plume so that he may recruit her brother, Bullock, played by a reluctant Samuel Martin.
The set consists of plain, wooden, creamy coloured panelled walls and flooring. It is interesting, though, to see the panels open to reveal all sorts or alcoves, trees, alehouse signs and a fountain.
For the most part this is a perfect production. Director Gareth Machin especially has to be commended for taking on the role of Kite at short notice after Jem Wall had an accident. This is a strong production of The Recruiting Officer.