National Theatre Production
Olivier Theatre, London
Saturday 5th January 2013
After the international, Tony winning, success of One Man Two Guv'nors, the National has a recent track record of creating fantastic farce. The Magistrate does not reach the same levels of hilarity however, remaining little more than amusing throughout.
The implausible plot sees second husband and local Magistrate Posket being deceived my his new wife Agatha as to her real age. She attempts to increase her attractiveness by declaring herself 31 rather than 36, but then realises she can only make her 19 year old son Cis believably legitimate, with the mathematics of her married years, by declaring him just 14. With the audience's disbelief willingly suspended, much of the comedy comes from the son's own acceptance of his mother's lie and his subsequent confusion over the maturity of his various tastes.
With John Lithgow absent, it was left to his understudy to perform the unfortunate, bumbling lawman of the title, and although he was amiable and entertaining it was Joshua McGuire as his young stepson who maintained the pace and displayed much of the humour.
The major success of this production came from the design, with an elaborate and imaginative set, on true National Theatre scale, a well-integrated chorus and large bright costumes. Every scene was unusually and engagingly staged - a visual delight.