Review Roundup: John Lithgow-Led THE MAGISTRATE

Review Roundup: John Lithgow-Led THE MAGISTRATE

John Lithgow stars in the title role opposite Nancy Carroll in The National Theatre revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's The Magistrate at the NT Oliver.

With his louche air and a developed taste for smoking, gambling, port and women, it’s hard to believe Cis Farringdon is only fourteen. And that’s because he isn’t. Agatha, his mother, lopped five years from her true age and his when she married the amiable Posket. 

What did the critics think? Read on to find out...

Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: With John Lithgow as Magistrate Posket, his composure unravelling like a ball of wool, and the marvellous Nancy Carroll as his growly tigress of a spouse, this show has a strong cast. It is young Joshua McGuire who sends it cascading into farcical anarchy, however...Add Mr Whippy hairdos, sets with a cardboard-cutout feel, some glamour from Christina Cole as Agatha’s sister, a bristling colonel from Jonathan Coy and a rattling pace, and you have a Victorian corker of a show.

Michael Billington, The GuardianKatrina Lindsay's set, opening up like the pages of a pop-up book, is gratuitously furnished with the headings Pinero gave each act such as "The Family Skeleton." But the play doesn't need such fussy titivation. I feel it also cramps the style of the actors. John Lithgow, the highly distinguished American stage and screen star, has to follow in the footsteps of Alistair Sim and Nigel Hawthorne as Mr Posket and he acquits himself well enough. But it still strikes me as a piece of odd casting since the role requires a peculiarly British sense of pompous dignity upended: I kept wondering what the great Arthur Lowe would have made of the part.

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: Pinero’s venerable farce The Magistrate (1885) is this year’s Christmas treat at the NT, and it isn’t quite the yuletide gift one was hoping for...It all feels a little tame and rather desperately Sheader tries to gee it along with Gilbert and Sullivan like songs between scenes, performed by a chorus of tiresomely zany dandies. It also seems perverse to cast the American actor John Lithgow as the very English magistrate. He isn’t quite able to disguise his transatlantic twang and though undoubtedly amiable, he is never side-splittingly funny.

Henry Hitchings, The Standard: The Magistrate is The National Theatre’s big Christmas show, and it’s a spirited but mostly genial farce. Timothy Sheader’s broad production introduces musical elements (a strength of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, which he runs): pseudo-Victorian interludes with lyrics by Richard Stilgoe. These slow proceedings down.  It’s the performances that ensure the show’s appeal. Lithgow does a good job of making Posket charmingly earnest. Nancy Carroll savours the absurdities of Agatha’s deceit — and also, along with Christina Cole as her sister Charlotte, adds more than a touch of glamour.

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