The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar

Description

First produced in 1706 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, The Recruiting Officer is a popular Restoration comedy by Irish writer George Farquhar. The play is set in the town of Shrewsbury and follows the exploits of Captains Plume and Brazen (army recruiting officers) as they romantically pursue Sylvia and Melinda.

The Recruiting Officer in 18th-century Australia

In 1789, The Recruiting Officer became the first play to be staged in the colony of New South Wales (Australia), where it was performed by prisoners of the First Fleet. Instead of facing execution, these convicts had been transported to Britain’s penal colony as punishment for their crimes.

This event inspired Australian author Thomas Keneally to write the 1987 novel, The Playmaker. Soon after publication, Max Stafford-Clark (the Royal Court’s Artistic Director from 1979 to 1992) had the idea of producing The Recruiting Officer – a classic play – alongside a new work adapted from The Playmaker. The result was Our Country’s Good by British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, a work that celebrates the redemptive and humanising power of theatre, and asks us to consider the role of the art form within society. Our Country’s Good and The Recruiting Officer premiered together as ‘companion pieces’ at the Royal Court Theatre in 1988. Both plays starred the same cast of 11 actors who were required to play multiple roles.

In Our Country’s Good, Wertenbaker depicts the origin of the idea to stage The Recruiting Officer and the rehearsals that follow – up to the point that the prisoners begin to stage their first performance. The convicts rehearse the first act, digitised here.

Full title:
The Recruiting Officer. A comedy [in five acts and in prose], etc.
Published:
estimated 1706, London
Format:
Book / Playscript
Creator:
George Farquhar
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
11773.g.11.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Directing Our Country’s Good: An interview with Max Stafford-Clark

Article by:
Themes:
20th-century theatre, Exploring identity

In 1988 Max Stafford-Clark directed the Royal Court Theatre premiere of Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Here, nearly three decades later, the British Library talks to Stafford-Clark about the genesis of the play, his experiences as its director and what it still has to teach us.

An introduction to Our Country’s Good

Article by:
Sara Freeman
Themes:
20th-century theatre, Exploring identity

Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker tells the story of members of the British Navy and convicts in a penal colony putting on a play in 18th-century New South Wales. Sara Freeman examines how Wertenbaker uses the structure of a play within a play to explore themes of colonialism, authority, transgression and the power of narrative.

An introduction to Restoration comedy

Article by:
Diane Maybank
Themes:
Theatre and entertainment, Politics and religion, Satire and humour

Diane Maybank introduces the characters, conventions and historical context of Restoration comedy, and explores what the genre has to say about gender, courtship and class.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Our Country's Good

Created by: Timberlake Wertenbaker

Our Country’s Good (1988) overview Timberlake Wertenbaker’s 1988 play Our Country’s Good is a ...