Pinero’s The Magistrate is a classic 19th Century farce concerning a wife with a son from a previous marriage who had to conceal their real age from the recently acquired husband, the magistrate. Through that conceit, the farce brought all the characters together to a supper room where they were found contravening the licensing laws by the police. In terms of a Victorian farce goes, it was a pretty standard affair and although consistently funny, it was not the laugh out loud type. Also considering this was only put on as a replacement for the cancelled “The Count  of Monte Cristo”, one can understand why this may not be the first choice. But the magic was in how to create an energetic, colourful, uplifting and funny production, that they managed to achieve delightfully. The set, by Katrina Lindsay, of the opening scene opened out like a giant pastel coloured pop up book with characters magically appeared from the folded pages. Along with all the skewed angles of doorways and windows, this suited the caricature like characters throughout the play from the man-child son, to the gloomy magistrate assistant. The caricature theme continued with jokes delivered with a knowing nod and a wink. Acts were interspersed with 19th century operetta style numbers which summarised the storyline with wit and small self referential details. The cast was excellent, with John Lithgow playing the magistrate with the highlight of the superb solo scene when Lithgow recounted a chase and played everything from the police to a horse. If there was ever a definitive master-class on one-person theatre, I would nominate this scene. Joshua Mcguire as the son of a confused age was superb showing the perfect balance between the prescribed childish and the precociousness and natural urges of a grown man. The direction by Thimothy Sheader was tight and kept the pace and energy right up given the material. My only criticism was a slight dip in energy in the middle of Act 3 but it soon gave way to a frantic final act. This was theatre production at its very best bringing superb direction, acting and production design together. I cannot see there is anything better to brighten up the dark winter nights ahead.


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