After a sellout premiere at the Hampstead theatre, Mr
Foote's Other Leg transfers to
the Theatre Royal Haymarket, an appropriate home for the famously flamboyant
Georgian satirist. Samuel Foote managed the Theatre Haymarket when it was
granted its Royal License, so the theatre houses a bit of its own history with
Ian Kelly’s retelling of the cult celebrity’s life. Kelly’s play reveals
Foote’s rise to stardom and fall from grace with a riot of theatricality, uproarious
hilarity, and dark wit.
Those not familiar with the foibles of Mr Foote are in for a jovial treat: his biography is a neverending parade of buffoonery and eccentricity. He prowled Covent Garden bedecked in outlandish garments and became the most celebrated actor of his day. Even losing a leg in a riding accident didn't put him on the back foot. But as madness and self-destruction simmer beneath the showmanship, Foote’s private life is placed in public view leaving the actor with no dressing room of his own.
Mr Foote’s Other Leg is a love letter to London theatre, with simple but effective sets, including a scenic 18th cityscape, and a cast of theatrical misfits who first meet for elocution lessons.
Characters are costumed perfectly within their time period, but still feel as if they could be contemporary companions. The first act is brutally funny, sprinting through Foote’s early life and ending in a phenomenal (and historically inaccurate) onstage surgery of his leg. The second act loses its footing at first, but find its feet in a slower, sturdier pace, substituting outward giggles for inward reflection, and showing us that the deepest laughs stem from times of strife.
While Foote may have been missing a limb, Simon Russell Beale’s portrayal is fully formed: at times sharp and boisterous, at others flamboyant and cruel, but when it matters most, he is docile, vulnerable, and endlessly endearing. Dervla Kirwan (as Peg Woffington), Joseph Millson (as David Garrick), and Micah Balfour (as Frak Barber) are sturdy supports and show off the most central aspect of comedic delivery, timing, with ease and finesse.
With Richard Eyre directing, the production demonstrates the tragedy in the comedy, and provides deep insights into the complexity of humanity, both on and off the stage. Ultimately, we are left to ponder Foote’s final offering, another seamlessly effortless but deeply profound meditation: “There’s nothing more piercing of the heart or humanising of the mind than a life in the theatre”
|What||REVIEW: Mr Foote's Other Leg, Theatre Royal Haymarket|
|Where||Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, London, SW1Y 4HT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
28 Oct 15 – 23 Jan 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£15 - £85|
|Website||Click here to book for the West End run|