Ooook! Productions’ The Magistrate – a comedic farce by Arthur Wing Pinero about a particularly deceitful night in the life of Mr Posket, his family, and his associates – is a fast-paced and energetic production. The group clearly enjoy every second of their performance, bringing a vibrant energy that is infectious, and soon spreads into the audience. The entire cast seems to bounce off one another in effective dialogue. Whether it is the nattering of two sisters, the bickering of a married couple, or the joking of two friends, the interplay between actors is a particular strong point of this performance, as it is what brings the biggest laughs. Especially notable in this regard are Theo Tobias (Captain Horace Vale) and Annabel Grace (Charlotte Verrinder), who make a great comedic duo, and Katherine Briggs (Agatha Posket), whose expressive reactions make any interactions with other characters far funnier.
This energy is also evident in the performances of Rory Gee (Cis Farringdon), Ben Willows (Colonel Lukyn), and Tom Porter (Mr Bullamy). All three of these actors embrace their roles with great aplomb, committing in a way that is needed in farcical comedy. Gee’s facial expressions and body language are particularly effective in creating the self-aware blend of arrogance and charm required in his character, and his comic timing is impeccable too. Willows embodies the angry colonel effectively, striking an imposing yet laughable figure throughout. His pratt fall deserves special mention here – that has to hurt! But Porter is especially effective in his somewhat limited role, managing to squeeze every ounce of humour out of the uptight and pompous character he portrays. It is a performance worthy of Lord Melchitt, you might say…
Alistair Hall’s performance as Mr Poskins is worth noting here also, as his straight-faced delivery is extremely entertaining. His performance lacks the flair and vivacity of others at times, particularly in the first twenty minutes or so, but he soon picks up and becomes a highlight of the performance. It is unfortunate that he seems to have some kind of cough, but it is admirable that he does not let it impact his performance.
Another strength of the performance is its physical comedy. Jaime Travesdo (Isidore) is the best example of this, as he manages to get as much humour out of his lesser role as possible. His physical gags might get the loudest reaction in the entire show, and they somehow never get old. Emily Oliver (Wormington and Blond) also excels in this regard, as her expressive presence on stage adds to the humour of any scene. Special mention has to go to the play fighting throughout the play as well – it is very well done, as over-the-top as it should be in a farce. (And did I mention that pratt fall?)
In terms of production, the play is also slickly performed. The minimal staging is effective, as it allows for the performances to take precedence, and the use of props is humorous. Grace’s use of prop food is particularly entertaining, though I hope she is not on a gluten-free diet…
The lighting of the show is effective in its simplicity, but it is a little disconcerting when lighting is suddenly used extensively at the beginning of Act 2. The sound is also a little disconcerting, as it is often slightly off-cue and fails to achieve a laugh. Whether this is a first-night issue that will be ironed out remains to be seen, but such issues tend to take away from the actors’ performances. The crashing scene is particularly prone to this problem, as the actors seem to be waiting for the cue, ruining the audience’s immersion. This is not too much of a problem, though, and a few audio gags do get big laughs. As well as this, Paul Dirk’s performance on the piano is an impressive one, particularly in helping to create smooth transitions between scenes. It is a little disappointing that he cannot play throughout the interval, as the silence at its beginning is jarring, but it is understandable that he needs a break.
Overall, The Magistrate is an excellent play because of the actors’ impressive commitment to the genre of farce. In being so energetic, they make for a highly entertaining night of over-the-top fun. It is certainly a play that I would recommend seeing in the next few days.
Image Credit: Ooook! Productions