The New York Times reviews Mr Foote’s Other Leg
There aren’t many actors besides Simon Russell Beale who scoop up roles with such avidity and to such splendid effect. It has been scarcely two months since this indefatigable performer finished his summer run at the Donmar Warehouse in “Temple” and here he is again, this time in “Mr. Foote’s Other Leg” at the Hampstead Theater through Oct. 17, eliciting hearty chuckles alongside the occasional tear. Does the man ever rest?
Apparently not, his ready embrace of new plays sitting comfortably alongside a talent marinated in the classics: He remains the seminal Hamlet of my experience.
For now, the pleasure comes from witnessing the unbridled brio that Mr. Russell Beale brings to the actor-playwright Ian Kelly’s portrait of the 18th-century comic actor and wit Samuel Foote, who had the misfortune to lose a leg in a riding accident. (It should be noted for those of a squeamish disposition that Richard Eyre’s affectionate production simulates Foote’s amputation onstage.) Fashioning the play from his own 2012 book of the same title, Mr. Kelly has concocted a crazy quilt of a play that comes blessed with a leading man who can power through the excesses, shifting from roisterousness to rumination on a dime. However overstuffed the first act in particular may be, the play is worth it not least to hear its star utter the single word “woof.”
A companion piece of sorts to Alan Bennett’s 1991 play “The Madness of George III,” “Mr. Foote’s Other Leg” grants the Hanoverian king a vivid supporting role that is played with stuttering conviction by Mr. Kelly himself. But the prevailing topic is less royalty or even illness than a full-on celebration of the theater as a place of freedom and fun that allows a haven for the cross-dressing (and gay) Foote, even as he confronts the specter of insanity himself.
It’s true that Mr. Russell Beale came comparably bedecked to the feminine nines in the 2012 West End revival of Peter Nichols’s “Privates on Parade,” but I won’t soon forget one of the more extravagant sartorial creations of the designer Tim Hatley this time around. If you wanted to know what Little Bo Peep might look like were she to be summoned to Versailles, have a gander at Mr. Russell Beale en travesti and laugh — until the actor goes on to shed all pretense and makes you cry.’