Farquhar: A Migrant Life Reversed, a major biography launched: Rod Dungate

Theatrical Launch of new Farquhar biography.

Do not think the launch of an academic biography of Restoration playwright Georges Farquhar would have to be a dull event brightened up with a few dry canapes. The unique event launching David Roberts’s George Farquhar: A Migrant Life Reversed had no dry canapes in sight (it was launched in a Jazz Bar!) and the event itself was a million miles from dull.

David Roberts launched his book, not with a mini-lecture, but with a witty an enthralling two-man play; Roberts had created this from his book. He played himself (and occasionally Farquhar’s friend, Robert Wilks) and was partnered by Hugo von Fragstein, a young, and clearly talented, actor. Fragstein gave an engrossing and, in such a short piece, amazingly rounded portrayal of the playwright.

Such a theatrical treat was a suitable way to introduce us to the playwright Professor Roberts reveals in his biography.

Farquhar was a hugely successful playwright in the early 1700s – The Constant Couple, The Recruiting Officer, The Beaux’ Stratagem are to the fore. Yet, we learn, he was never accepted in English (London) literary circles. Speaking with David Roberts one recent sunny afternoon I casually remarked: ‘Ah, Farquhar, one of the elite group of English playwrights who is actually Irish.’ Roberts’s parry flashed in the sunlight: ‘He may be considered elite now, but he was thought a bit of a dog in his own time.’

With just such a user-friendly manner Roberts discusses in his biography the way in which Farquhar’s life, and the attitude of those around him, are reflected in his works. Works, I would suggest, that are not given their full value in the present day.

With great skill Roberts tells the story in reverse (in both the book and the live event); he finishes with a searing account of the 13 year-old Farquhar surviving one of the awful examples of English oppression of the Irish. It is only when we understand this, Roberts would suggest, do we fully understand the playwright and his works.

My words do poor justice to this. Fragstein brought the idea to flesh-and-blood life. In this unique event, we saw living in front of us, a lively young man (Farquhar died tragically young), full of life and bluster. A man who spoke of many things, but could not speak of some too painful. And in the final moments, beautifully embodied by Fragstein, a vulnerable human, who wanted nothing more than to be loved and accepted.

Well, George Farquhar, I suspect you’re on a hiding to nothing. The English, it would seem, are not too fond of foreigners. Not then. Not now.

George Farquhar: A Migrant Life Reversed, by David Roberts, is published by Methuen Drama. At around £70 it may be beyond the pockets of many ReviewsGate visitors, but get whatever libraries you may be connected with to buy copies. I Our understanding of, and enjoyment of George Farquhar’s plays will be enriched forever.

ISBN: 978 135005 7067

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/George-Farquhar-Reversed-Histories-Performance-ebook/dp/B07FD4XW9X


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