Mr Foote's Other Leg

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
 (© Nobby Clark)
1/5
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2/5
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3/5
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4/5
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5/5
© Nobby Clark

Simon Russell Beale stars in a messy, intoxicating love letter to the Georgian stage

Mr Foote's Other Leg is transferring to Theatre Royal Haymarket from 28th October.

As a one-legged, cross-dressing, gay, playwright-slash-comedian-slash-actor (and pal to the monarchy), you’d imagine Samuel Foote would make a reasonable splash even in jaded old 2015. So just imagine how he went down in the Georgian era, when he was one of the biggest and most controversial stage stars of the time, confounding the increasingly puritanical theatre establishment with his sexuality, his outrageous satires, and his sheer indomitable will – soldiering on with a wooden prosthetic for over a decade after a near-fatal horse-riding accident cost him his leg.

It’s a fascinating life crying out for a great dramatization. But for all its many charms – not least bagging the great Simon Russell Beale as its leading man – Ian Kelly’s ‘Mr Foote’s Other Leg’ falls short, largely, I think, because it’s an adaptation of Kelly’s own biographical history book of the same name.  Nothing wrong with history books, but they tend to have a lot of stuff in them, and this is the problem with ‘Mr Foote’s Other Leg’: it’s episodic and rambling, covering a great length of time in the history of Foote and his peers without really having a clear arc.

Conversely, that’s all part of the charm of Richard Eyre’s ramshackle production, which is really about how a gang of loveable misfits – Foote, fellow actors David Garrick (Joseph Millson) and Peg Woffington (Dervla Kirwan) – took London by storm even as the forces of public decency were closing in. There is a real sense of the febrile excitement of the time, as the bickering friends gallop to precarious superstardom and Foote hurtles right over the brink, alienating the society he had so delighted in provoking.

Russell Beale is brilliant as you’d hope, playing Foote as an excitable, competitive, emotional man, irritated by a world that can’t keep up with his lightning fast mind, his disappointment in life only exacerbated by the loss of his leg in a silly wager. He has a ball of a time with his many costume changes, and mines the play’s richly absurdist humour as skilfully as he does its pathos. But it’s not quite a big enough role for him to hold the whole enjoyably messy shebang together.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

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Average User Rating

4 / 5

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Tastemaker

Simon Russell Beale is a genius! So said the excitable 60-year old behind me. I can't help but agree after seeing yet another stellar performance by the man (the last performance of Temple at the Donmar was outstanding as well). Flipping from the flippant to the serious to the disturbed with the ease of a schizophrenic, his gift shone through at each point. The supporting cast was equally good too. Costumes were elaborate and the good use of the moving set and lighting really helped you step back into time. For any theatre buff, the glimpse into issues and life in the theatres of old was eye-opening. It is no wonder it got transferred to the west-end after a sellout at Hampstead Theatre. For those who could not get a ticket there or did not want to track all the way out there, the Theatre Royal Haymarket should be your next stop! It also is really apt that this particular play is in the Theatre Royal Haymarket as the protagonist is the very man who owned the lease of the place and got them the royal license which legitimised the place! So leg it down to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, kick ur legs up, and enjoy the foot-age before your eyes!

Tastemaker

I heard Richard Eyre talking about Mr Foote on the radio and the mention of the abundance of puns made me feel like I should see it. It is presented in a light hearted way and moments in it's easy to see why it has transferred to the West End. It is gentle and shallow. It makes no qualms about what it is and the story unfolds well. The set is nicely designed and I enjoyed its relatively simplistic engineering compared to many others these days. Russell Beale does a great job of holding the thing together and there are some well judged performances from the rest of the cast. When this relentless comedy does break to tragedy, it does it very well. There isn't that much of it but what there is is touching, well balanced, beautifully written and brilliantly performed. It's the kind of show designed for everyone and, partly because of that, I liked it. 

tastemaker

This is a bit of a panto. Mr Foote is played by the great Simon Russell Beale. The problem is that the part is not good enough for Beale and he isn't challenged enough. The production is lacking, it has humour, but it's a bit too schoolboy smutty to be enjoyed. Beale spends a number of scenes getting in or out of dresses - something he has done before (enough - time to move on).