Belfast Telegraph

George Farquhar: the forgotten 'Shakespeare' of Derry taking centre stage

BY DONNA DEENEY

He was the Shakespeare of his day, a bard whose influence extended far beyond his Londonderry home – yet he remains virtually unknown in his home city.

But one man is trying to put that right with a week-long run of a play in the city about George Farquhar, one of our most successful but least known comedy writers.

By Mr Farquhar tells the tale of the man who in his day, and for a century after his death in 1707, was one of the best known and loved names in British theatres.

His plays, most particularly The Recruiting Officer and The Beaux Stratagem, are still performed by the world's leading theatres although his name has been almost forgotten in Ireland.

Jonathan Burgess, director of the Blue Eagle George Farquhar Theatre Festival, organised the celebration in an attempt to change this. "As a playwright, Farquhar gave true characters to women on stage for the first time," Mr Burgess said.

"He pushed moral boundaries, writing positively about divorce at a time when only the monarch could grant one. The dramas he wrote felt more real to his audiences than anything they had seen before – they were humorous rather than relying on style and wit. In short, he transformed theatre.

"He also lived through the Siege of Derry, the Battle of the Boyne, the burning of his father's vicarage as King James' troops retreated and the restoration of the monarchy."

The production centres on the time in the young man's life when he famously penned The Beaux Stratagem, a swashbuckling romp which tells the tale of two girl-crazy adventurers on the road trip of their young lives.

Completed by Farquhar in December 1706, not long before his death, The Beaux Stratagem is considered to be one of the finest and one of the most controversial comedies written during the Restoration period.

By Mr Farquhar is written by Dublin playwright Lindsay Sedgwick and stars Derry actor and Farquhar fanatic Stephen Bradley in the title role.

PROFILE

Farquhar was born in 1677, one of seven children of William Farquhar, a clergyman of modest means. He was educated at Foyle College and later entered Trinity College, Dublin. Farquhar's first comedy, Love And A Bottle, was premiered in 1698.

Farquhar died on April 29, 1707 and is buried in London.

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