Theatre Review: The Magistrate


Title: The Magistrate

Author: Arthur Wing Pinero

Director: Timothy Sheeder

Genre: Victorian Farce

Actors: John Lithgow, Nancy Carroll and Joshua Maguire.

Why: I was attracted by the colorful posters that were advertised on the London Underground.

Where: The National Theatre , running until February 2013 – Buy Tickets

Refreshments: Pre-show tapas in the Terrace Bar , including artichoke tortilla, calamari, roasted broad beans and olive tapanade washed down with a carafe of Merlot


This Victorian farce centers on the key theme of age, in this case the pressure of a woman to be forever youthful.  Something that is keenly felt by widowed Agatha Posket when she inadvertently shaves five years off her age on the eve of her second wedding to Magistrate Posket. Not a massive problem apart from the fact that she has to pretend that her son Cis is 14, whereas he is nearly 20.

The unexpected arrival of Cis’ godfather sends Agatha, sister in tow, to the Hôtel des Princes to warn him of her deception. Unfortunately it’s also where her son has persuaded his otherwise sensible stepfather into joining him for a binge on champagne and deviled oysters. High-spirited partying and misunderstandings leads to a police raid and a night of outrageous mishaps culminating in court the next day where a disheveled Posket must preside. 

The cast were excellent especially the actor playing Cis Posket whose five foot, boyish frame and carrot-colored perm stole the show. He was full-on and in your face as he indulged his love for gambling and girls to the detriment of his step-father. Mcguire’s posh dandy accent never falters throughout and his high-kicks and scandalous behavior, for an ahmmm 14yr old make him the most entertaining presence on the stage.

In second place was the understudy playing Agatha Posket, Nancy Carroll was ‘indisposed’, whose strained facial expressions when facing the audience and hysterical outbursts suited the farcical genre superbly. Her comedic solo song debating the problem of a woman’s age also lends itself well to the central plot, her voice especially emotive due to her current predicament. I was also a little envious of her beautiful dark green and fuchsia gown and hat which she wears with aplomb.

One of the most striking features of the production is the set, designed by Katrina Lindsay; it appears as a series of circular cardboard cut outs each trimmed with the outline of the city of London. The spiraling angles and movements reflect the farcical drama beautifully as we follow the thread of lies on a madcap journey throughout London,  humorously supported by a singing group of dandies who knock out some witty musical interludes to introduce the next part of the play.

Unfortunately, due to it being Winter and the season for flu John Lithgow, one of the main attractions for me, was also ‘indisposed’, so I was already a little disappointed before the play even began. However, there were laughs and I was genuinely entertained by the actors as they delivered a traditional and heavily stylized farce.  Nevertheless, at 160mins running time, by the end, I was getting slightly tired of Posket’s whining which resulted in me feeling a little relieved when the cardboard went up for the final time.

Rating: 7 out of 10 – disappointed that the headline actors weren’t present.


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