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A CurtainUp London Review
Mr Foote's Other Leg
Wonderfully the theatre that Samuel Foote ran was in the Haymarket, where this play is now showing. The play is drawn by Ian Kelly from his biography Mr Foote's Other Leg, Comedy, Tragedy and Murder in Georgian London. It was a problem to get a licence to produce plays so often theatre would produce concerts or opera with a "free" play given away to get round the licensing laws. Samuel Foote would often hold "tea parties" as a cover for plays many of which he appeared in dressed in voluminous frocks and elaborate wigs.
Tim Hatley's set is perfect for the period and the costumes too are excellent. Foote's Molly outfits would grace any pantomime.
Besides the actors we meet Benjamin Franklin (Colin Stinton) who lived in London and was a theatre goer and the Scottish scientist known for dissection, Dr John Hunter (Forbes Masson). A riding accident costs Foote his leg but he carries on in the theatre at first in a wheelchair and later with the aid of one of the first articulated prosthetics designed by Dr Hunter and built by the puppet makers at Drury Lane. We are not spared any of the gory details of the amputation onstage. Ian Kelly the author takes on the role of Prince George, later King George III, a theatre patron and who granted Foote a licence in the Haymarket.
Dervla Kirwan is utterly charming as Peg Woffington, the beautiful Irish comic actress; her voice wasn't good enough for tragedy, who quarrelled with many other actresses and who was Garrick's mistress. She is perfectly cast in this personality filled role which ends sadly with Peg's wasting disease. Joseph Millson is attractive as David Garrick, shown as a gentle character. Jenny Galloway is the vocal stage manager Mrs Garner who describes her job behind the scenes as the "worst bits of any marriage".
But the star of this show is Russell Beale's foul mouthed Foote, witty and often crude whose reputation takes a knock when he is accused by a footman of sodomy. His rendering of Othello as a comedy must have been quite a stretch! We have Garrick telling Foote that he cannot play both Falstaff and Mistress Quickly. At one point we have three Othellos onstage in a pure farce, two with curly haired wigs.
Ian Kelly's play is overstuffed, full of different themes, funny and sad, and theatre jokes but Russell Beale is a real treat!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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