Lust and sparkle light up Theatre Royal

The Poor Soldier, by John O’Keeffe, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, Tuesday, June 29.

THE Poor Soldier was reportedly George Washington’s favourite play.

It is easy to see why.

Filled with Georgian lustiness and sparkle, this production was bursting with the vivacity of the Regency genre.

Written by Irish playwright John O’Keeffe at the end of the American War of Independence, the story follows a gallant soldier, Patrick, returning home to find his sweetheart, Nora, is being wooed by English officer Fitzroy.

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But brave Patrick, played by Daniel Summers, would rather set Nora free than to tie her down to marriage with a poor foot soldier, before fate steps in a takes a hand.

The versatile cast showed off their impressive musical talents in this popular comedy with music and songs by 18th century composer William Shield.

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Charismatic Dominic Gerrard held the production together as Fitzroy, the dashing officer vying for Nora’s hand.

Tarek Merchant put in a barn-storming performance as the flamboyant Bagatelle, a frivolous servant created by O’Keeffe to take a swipe at the English’s French foe.

But it was Sam O’Mahony Adams who brought down the house as the lovable Irish servant Darby, desperately trying to impress the teasing Kathleen, played keenly by Elizabeth Reid.

With boisterous wit and more than a touch of Blarney charm, Sam bounced through the production as the stereotypical Irishman.

Neil Savage brought warmth and wit to proceedings as Nora’s uncle, callously trading his ward’s hand in marriage to the highest bidder.

Premiered in London’s Covent Garden in 1783, the play was popular among audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, as it jovially poked fun at both French, English and Irish characteristics.

Once again, director Colin Bluemenau uses the intimate beauty of the restored Theatre Royal to draw the audience into his world of chivalry and charm.

From cheeky asides to wanton winks, the talented cast won hearts as they romped through this lovable play.

Sponsored by Cambridge University Press, the production is another gem in the Restoring the Repertoire project at the theatre

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