Photograph of Ian Richardson (Posket), Frank Middlemass (Bullamy) and John Padden (Cis) kindly provided by Chichester Festival Theatre.
Cast list:
Mr Posket Ian Richardson
Colonel Lukyn Graham Crowden
Mrs Posket Abigail McKern
Cis John Padden
. Carolyn Backhouse
Bullamy Frank Middlemass
. Richard Clifford
. Claire Francis
. Dermot Keaney
. Colin Mace
. Elizabeth Ann O'Brien
. Mason Phillips
. Olivier Pierre
. Derek Smee
. Roger Walker

Stewart Wright

Author Arthur Wing Pinero
Director Nicholas Broadhurst
Designer Simon Higlett
Lighting Robert Bryan
Sound John A Leonard
Music Gary Yershon

  Ian Richardson in The Magistrate

The Magistrate by A W Pinero: Chichester Festival Theatre,1997

Ian Richardson in The MagistrateI went to see the first Saturday matinee, while the production was still previewing. The large cast were already working well together. Graham Crowden in particular is a delight as Colonel Lukyn. Prior to the story opening, Mr Posket (Ian) married a widow. During a courtship of only three weeks, she lacked the courage to give her true age (36), and told him she was 31. To tally with this fiction, she likewise reduced the age of her son by 5 years. "Cis" is a young man of 19, but supposed by his acquaintences to be a forward 14 year old.
    Mr Posket is a magistrate, and a philanthropist: a well-meaning, kind-hearted man who frequently pays out of his own pocket the fines to which he sentences wrongdoers. Lead astray by the energetic Cis, he loses money gambling, is taken out on the town, caught up in a police raid, and chased through the streets all night. Through all this, Ian is a delight. The gentle philanthropist of the early scenes, trying to cope with his demanding stepson, follows an apparently unavoidable course leading to a cataclysmic "morning after".
    I have seen several productions of "The Magistrate", and it always "works", because this writer understood farce, and actors, and his audience. Richardson's timing is, as ever, superb. Whether gravely trampling nuts on the drawing room floor, or stricken with horror on seeing his own battered reflection, he never seems to be trying to make an effect, but simply reacting to the situation. Chichester is a large theatre, but of course that wonderful voice encompasses every inch of it and resounds in your head afterwards. Ian earlier had a big success as Tom Wrench in Trelawny, the musical version of Pinero's Trelawny of the Wells, which played in Bristol, Sadlers Wells, and The Savoy in London.

18th October: The cast are playing very well together now. Ian was cheered at this afternoon's performance. Abigail McKern's performance has grown considerably, and Richard Clifford is now excellent in his scenes both with Graham Crowden and Caroline Backhouse. (The Vale/Charlotte exchanges, even when in dumb show, are most effective.) I also liked John Padden's honest anger and swift response on hearing that his Mother has been sent to jail. I look forward to seeing the production again when it reaches Richmond next month

8th November: The performance this afternoon was the best I have seen so far. Fascinating watching Ian's performance evolving. He always does change things the whole time, always did. He is now bringing out the inate gentleness of the man more, and his relationship with his wife, and so the effect is more naturalistic, but still very funny. Pinero was an influence in his day for a more natural form of drama. (In Trelawny of the Wells, Tom Wrench, the would-be playwright, longs to write about "real" people.) A friend remarked last night that with Ian, the humour always comes from the text, is never imposed upon it. This is very true, and it gives his work warmth and sensitivity, even while we laugh.

addendum - 21st March 1998 Unfortunately, several performances have fallen apart in the latter part of the run. There is much shameless playing to the audience - causing scenes to collapse like an ill-timed souffle. Abigale McKern now starts off on a shrill note that is sustained throughout, leaving no room for development, and making Posket's infatuation less easily understandable. Richardson's own performance, which has continued to change and evolve throughout the run, but always remaining true to the character, is an acting lesson apparently not understood by some of the cast, who are sadly in need of a return of the directorial hand.

Photograph: Chichester Festival Theatre©
text Shirley Jacobs