Mr. Foote’s Other Leg

In case you’ve not yet heard about Georgian London’s most notorious resident, Samuel Foote, Ian Kelly’s play, Mr. Foote’s Other Leg, will bring you up to speed, now playing at Jericho Arts Centre for the next few weeks.

Mr. Foote’s Other Leg

Director Sarah Rodgers has brought Kelly’s story (based on his 2012 biography, Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, tragedy and murder in Georgian London) to life on the small, yet functional Jericho Arts Centre stage.

The decor ranges from a theatre stage-within-a-theatre to a bookshelf (in the opening scene) containing jars of preserved fetuses in varying stages and a man’s head alongside a skull and bones.

Adding texture to Brian Ball’s set is a beautifully-gilded chandelier that gets illuminated via Lighting Designer Darren W. Hales’ wizardry.

Mr. Foote’s Other Leg

Settle down and enjoy two and a half hours of fun and comic warmth provided by a talented, well-unified cast as Sam Foote, together with Peg Woffington, David Garrick, Mrs. Garner (aka “Mrs. G”), King George III, even Benjamin Franklin, appear and entertain, sometimes through coarse language, to show us a glimpse of backstage life at the theatre.

Foote was known as a satirist, impressionist and “dangerous” comedian, inciting a later threat to his life by simply stepping foot on stage (no pun intended).

The two musicians off to stage left (Shona Struthers, Aidan Wright) provide classical music interludes and sound effects as the play moves between scenes.

Mr Footes Other Leg

An easel with locations printed on white boards off to the opposite side helps guide the audience through the multiple sets used, from backstage at the Little Theatre on the Haymarket to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Costume designer Catherine E. Carr’s on-point wardrobe contains the right threads for the era with antiquated and muted tones as well as a reconstructed leg for Foote to compliment Ball’s awesome, yet creepy collection in jars noted above.

Mr. Foote’s Other Leg

Towards the end of the first act, a gruesome emergency surgery procedure to amputate Sam Foote’s leg is carried out by scientist John Hunter (Simon Webb), as a result of a horse-riding accident during a prank played with King George III.

As is typical for his biting humour, Foote closes the first act by declaring, “It’s going to be bloody difficult to top that in the second act!”.

Starting up act two, Foote gets the crowd roaring again with another one, “I’m a footless Foote”. This incarnation of Foote is actually used by the lead actor to comedic advantage as he quips back and forth between his theatre mates.

Mr Footes Other Leg

In Mr. Foote’s Other Leg, science and theatre are meshed when at times, Benjamin Franklin (Kenta Nezu, in a dual role also playing Charles Macklin) discusses various theories and at one point brings Foote on stage in an experiment to learn how actors memorize their lines.

Back in the day, Foote drew audiences that enjoyed his scathing satirical performances (often involving cross-dressing) during London’s young theatre years. His gradual decline is also smartly portrayed as the play carries on to its conclusion.

Mr. Foote’s Other Leg

Sam Foote’s meaty role is brought to life via seasoned actor Kazz Leskard. This is a physically demanding role that he smashes out of the park. Another standout performance is that of Bethany Stanley, who plays Mrs. Garner, the theatre’s stage manager, not too shy to drop a load of F-bombs and do so with a well-molded British accent to boot.

Kenta Nezu’s Benjamin Franklin is portrayed with a southern accent. His other role, as Charles Macklin, shows off the often over-the-top personality of an actor. Elizabeth Willow’s Peg Wolfington is a Dublin transplant who engages with the other actors in a warm, endearing manner.

Mr Footes Other Leg

Ian Kelly’s play is based on Foote’s life, exploring our obsession with the rise and fall of celebrities. It’s well worth attending but heads up, while the first act has a frenzied pace, some of the second act drags on before reaching the final scene. As Foote’s life began to slow down towards the end, so does the play’s tempo.

It’s lovely to watch Foote, Wolfington, Garrick and Mrs. G become tight friends over the years, having experienced so much fiasco (and fun) on and off stage together.

Mr. Foote’s Other Leg continues at the Jericho Arts Centre (1675 Discovery) through September 24 with performances from Thursday through Sunday. Visit United Players of Vancouver online for evening (and matinee) performance tickets.

Photos by Nancy Caldwell.

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