Sherlock co-creator and star Mark Gatiss woke up this morning to glowing four- and five-star reviews for his latest play, The Recruiting Officer. George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy, first performed in 1706, follows the adventures of a group of soldiers tasked with swelling the ranks of the army for the Spanish Wars – by whatever means necessary.
In his five-star review of the Donmar Warehouse production, Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer praised Gatiss’s “deliciously preposterous yet oddly endearing” take on the extravagantly bewigged Captain Brazen, while The Arts Desk commented that his is “a performance of surreal genius that bears little relation to anything else happening on stage, but somehow works”.
Mark Shenton for The Stage pointed out that theatre seems to be keeping many of the League of Gentlemen cast busy these days – with Steve Pemberton also currently appearing in She Stoops to Conquer and Reece Shearsmith in Absent Friends, productions that have also enjoyed overwhelmingly positive reviews.
“Now it is the turn of Mark Gatiss to reveal effortless comic élan as a fop here,” Shenton wrote. “He helps to establish a knowingly contemporary comic sensibility to the playing that is also perfectly in period.”
Over at Whatsonstage.com, Michael Coveney reported that as Brazen, Gatiss is “all winks and smiles, and very funny, though not as lubricious, obviously, as Olivier was in the legendary National production”.
The Independent, awarding the production four stars, agreed Gatiss “is in hilarious form as the name-dropping chatterbox Captain Brazen”.
As part of what The Stage called a “superb ensemble cast”, Mark Gatiss stars alongside Mackenzie Crook from The Office – who plays Sergeant Kite, the eponymous recruiting officer – Eternal Law’s Tobias Menzies as Captain Plume, and Rachael Stirling of Tipping the Velvet fame as coquette Melinda.
Gatiss has enjoyed previous success on stage in Art (alongside Pemberton and Shearsmith), the Old Vic’s stage adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s All about My Mother, and Alan Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings at the National Theatre.
The Recruiting Officer runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 14 April.