Unusually, the second theatre trip for 2012 was another Restoration Comedy, this time The Recuiting Officer at The Donmar. The draw for me was Mackenzie Crook playing Sergeant Kite, as I loved his performance in Jerusalem. He doesn’t disappoint this time around either and his comic timing and wonderful expressions are a joy to behold. He is, in essence, unforgettable. The play is centred around Captain Plume, expertly played by Tobias Menzies and Captain Brazen, brought to life by the wonderful but hardly recognisable Mark Gatiss, recruiting for the Army in Shrewsbury. Plume’s Sergeant Kite lies, cheats and dresses as a fortune teller in order to enlist gullible men as soldiers. Confusion abounds when women come into the equation – the womanising Plume is smitten with Silvia, perfectly played by Nancy Carroll, who disguises herself as a man in order to get recruited by him, Capt Brazen is led up the garden path by Silvia’s bitchy cousin Melinda, a wonderfully funny Rachael Stirling who is actually in love with Mr. Worthy, an excellent Nicholas Burns and Rose, Aimee-Ffion Edwards’s adorable country wench.
This is Josie Rourke’s first offering as Artistic Director of The Donmar and if it’s a sign of what’s to come, I feel very confident that all will be well. The pace of the production is spot on and I loved various members of the cast performimg as a folk band, especially the reprise of Over the Hills and Far Away at the show’s end, as one by one the musicians put down their instruments and head off to war.
Full praise, too, to Lucy Osborne, the designer. The glow from all the flickering candles is very atmospheric and sets the scene right from the off.
It seems wrong to only highlight certain performances as everyone in this new production of Farquar’s hilarious play deserves praise. Tobias Menzies switches from rake to monogamous lover with consummate ease and, oh my, what a wink this officer has. The poodle wigged Mark Gatiss flounces, winks and smiles in hilarious fashion, which should be too over the top to work but isn’t and does. Rachael Stirling is brilliantly comedic and perfects a wonderful faux posh accent, making “air” come out as “ear” before enacting a couple of brilliant “slapstick” manoeuvres.
It’s rare to find all round perfection even on the perfect Donmar stage but it’s there for all to see in this Recruiting Officer. Sign me up Sergeant Kite.