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Mr Foote’s Other Leg

Published 22 September 2015

What’s it all about?

The Mr Foote of the title is Samuel Foote, the 18th century performer and former Theatre Royal Haymarket manager who used the loss of his left leg to great comedic effect on stage.

Ian Kelly’s play, which is based on his acclaimed biography of Foote, charts the Georgian figure’s theatrical antics, his relationships with fellow performers David Garrick and Peg Woffington, and the unfortunate circumstances that led to him parting ways with that titular limb.

Who’s in it?

Who better to play this wonderfully eccentric historical figure than the equally wonderful Simon Russell Beale? The three-time Olivier Award winner captures all sides of Foote’s personality, from his disgruntled crankiness and sometimes hurtful uninhibitedness to his comic cheekiness and heart-warming kindness.

Those who enjoyed Russell Beale’s turn as Captain Dennis in Michael Grandage’s 2012 production of Privates On Parade can also take delight in his cross-dressing return, as his Foote steps into many a lavish frock for his stage performances.

Alongside Russell Beale, there are compelling performances by Dervla Kirwan as a flirtatious Peg, Joseph Millson as a convincing Garrick, playwright Kelly as a sure of himself King George and Jenny Galloway as Foote’s ‘wife in the wings’ Mrs Garner.

What should I look out for?

Squeamish? Watch out for the amputation scene. With graphic descriptions from Forbes Massons’ doctor, a rather blunt looking saw and the absence of anaesthetic, this is a painful five minutes both for the audience and Mr Foote.

Handel and his pesky presence across the road from the Haymarket at Her Majesty’s, which provides the ammunition for many of the play’s gags.

Othello the drama (led by Garrick at Drury Lane) Vs Othello the comedy (starring Foote at the Haymarket), which both have the same opening night, causing much bickering and brawling among the blacked-up lead performers.

In a nutshell?

Simon Russell Beale puts his best foot forward with a scintillating performance in Ian Kelly’s insightful, touching and witty theatrical take on his acclaimed Samuel Foote biography.

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Will I like it?

Any opportunity to see Russell Beale on stage is one that should be seized immediately regardless of play, production or fellow performers, but an opportunity to see the actor in a full length frock and hat in a play that is both perceptive and funny alongside a team of more than capable co-stars is, well, a pretty good thing.

Mr Foote’s Other Leg is playing at the Hampstead Theatre until 17 October. Tickets are currently sold-out, but returns may be available. Visit the Hampstead Theatre’s website for full details.


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