The Beaux’ Stratagem

by George Farquhar

directed by Ken Spencer

Performed at

Mottisfont Abbey


17th to 25th July 1987

George Farquhar

‘It is surprising how much English Comedy owes to Irishmen’. Thoroughly Irish by birth and education, Captain George Farquhar (1677-1707) had delighted the town with a succession of bright, rattling comedies - Love and a Bottle (1698), The Constant Couple (1699), Sir Harry Wildair (1701), The Inconstant (1702) The Twin Rivals (1702), The Recrulting Officer (1706). In an unlucky moment, when hard pressed by his debts, he sold out of the army on the strength of a promise by the Duke of Ormond to gain him some preferment, which never came. In his misery and poverty, with a wife and two helpless girls to support, Farquhar was not forsaken by his one true friend, Robert Wilks. Seeking out the dramatist in his wretched garret in St.Martin’s Lane, the actor advised him no longer to trust to great men’s promises but to look only to his pen for support, and urged him to write another play. ‘Write!’ said Farquhar, starting from his chair; ‘Is it possible that a man can write with commonsense who is heartless and has not a shilling in his pockets?’ ‘Come, come, Geoarge,’ said Wilks, ‘banish melancholy, draw up your drama, and bring the sketch with you tomrrow, for I expect you to dine with me. But as an empty purse may cramp your genius, I desire you to accept my mite; here is twenty guineas.’

Farquhar set to work, and brought the plot of his play to Wilks the next day; the latter approved the design, and urged him to proceed without delay. Mostly written in bed, the whole was begun, finished and acted within six weeks. The author designed to dedicate it to Lord Cadogan, but his Lordship, for reasons unknown, declined the honour; he gave the dramatist a handsome present, however. Thus was The Beaux’ Stratagem written.

Farquhar is said to have felt the approaches of death ere he finished the second act. On the night of the first performance Wilks came to tell him of his great success, but mentioned that Mrs Oldfield wished that he could have thought of some more legitimate divorce in order to secure the honour of Mrs Sullen. ‘Oh,’ said Farquhar, ‘I will, if she pleases, solve that immediately, by getting a real divorce; marrying her myself, and giving her my bond that she shall be a widow in less than a fortnight.’ Subsequent events practically fulfilled this prediction, for Farquhar died during the run of the play : On Tuesday, 29th April, 1707, the plaudits of the audience resounding in his ears, the destitute, brokenhearted dramatist passed to that bourne where stratagems avail not any longer.

(from a Preface to the play by H. Macaulay Fitzgibbon)

Cast (in order of appearance)
Boniface Ken Spencer
Cherry Angela Stansbridge
Thomas Aimwell Malcolm Brown
Francis Archer Bill Mccann
Dorinda Belinda Drew
Mrs Sullen Mollie Manns
Squire Sullen Albert Minns
Scrub David Bartlett
Gibbet John Souter
Gipsy Philippa Taylor
Foigard Harry Tuffill
A Country Woman Jean Durmam
Lady Bountiful Joan Johnson
Hounslow Graham Hill
Bagshot Derek Sealy
Sir Charles Freemam David Pike
Travellers and Members of the Household Georgina Bance, Hazel Burrows, Janet Cairney, Holly Deacon, Alice Watson, Ellen Watson, Jenny Watson, Richard Tuffill, Alan Watson

click on a photo to enlarge it

Bill McCann, Mollie Manns, Belinda Drew, Malcolm Brown


For the Maskers:
Director Ken Spencer
Production Assistant Philippa Taylor
Stage Manager Angela Barks
Lighting Design Clive Weeks
Lighting Operators Lawrie Gee, Scott Chapman, Kevin Smith
Sound Angela Barks, Tony Lawther, Jan Ward
Set Design Ken Spencer
Set Construction David Allen, Edwin Beecroft, Tony Lawther, John Riggs, Richard Tuffill
Properties Ella Lockett, Georgina Bance, Richard Tuffill
Wardrobe Janet Cairney, Ros Liddiard


Bill McCann, Mollie Manns, Belinda Drew, Malcolm Brown

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