Throughout the play The recruiting Officer by George Farquhar, it is clear that Captain Plume and Kite have a suspicious collusion that cons and lures unsuspecting simpletons to join their cause. Through this interaction, comedy can be created through the use of asides, winks, nudges and even subtle tones they use in their dialogue with one another. There are several scenes in which I believe this comedy can be easily shown. The first scene that this can be seen clearly is Act 1 Scene 1. In this scene we are introduced to Kite and Plume, and from the very outset their unsavoury pursuits can be seen.
For example, within the first few lines of the pair meeting, they are talking about Kite’s successful recruiting. When Kite tells him he has enlisted an attorney, Plume replies, “An attorney! Wert thou mad? List a lawyer! Discharge him, discharge him this minute. ” “Because I will have no body in my company that can write; a fellow that can write, can draw petitions”. From this it should be clear to the audience that he is concerned by having a writer in the company. This statement should exaggerate the comedy by Plume’s reaction to hearing of the attorney being enlisted.
I would direct my actor to be relatively composed and relaxed while initially talking to Kite, with relaxed shoulders and slow, casual movements and slightly slumped posture. As Kite mentions the attorney, I would have him tighten up, adopting a straight posture to show his nerves and unease. This should be funny to the audience because they can see how nervous that makes him, giving the impression of a stereotypical recruiting officer who tricks his victims into joining but is afraid of petitions against them.
To reiterate the comedy that should be created, I would instruct my actor to say the second half of the line to the audience: “a fellow that can write, can draw petitions”. Saying this with raised eyebrows and rolling his eyes while saying it should create humour to the audience, making them laugh at the collusion between the pair. Later in the same scene, comedy can be created when the pair discuss “Molly at the castle”, one of Plume’s old lovers. Plume’s dismissive and quick-thinking should be comedic for the audience.
Almost immediately after Plume is told Molly Has had a child, he instructs Kite to claim the baby is his and sign him up to the recruitment. This should again show to the audience a comic side to the recruiting officer’s job and through the stereotypical perception of a recruiting officer of the time, the audience should find this funny. To ensure my audience laughs at this, I would instruct my actor, when reading out the list of women he has as wives, to pull from his pocket a long roll of paper, allowing it to unravel to the floor as he reads. This almost slapstick comedic technique should make my audience laugh.
The set and lighting should be simple throughout, as should the lighting, enabling the actors to show effectively their characters without the distraction of complex sets/lights. Another scene in which Plume and Kite appear together is Act 2 Scene 3, where they recruit Appletree and Pairmain. This scene has a lot of opportunities for comedy and as a director, I would ensure that as many of these are exploited as is possible. As Plume enters singing, I would instruct him to look across to Kite while Appletree and Pairmain are not looking and give him an obvious wink.
This should be seen by the audience, causing them to laugh at the over-exaggeration of the wink and them to the fact that the 2 unsuspecting men are about to be tricked in some way. As Pearmain demands to see the mayor, Plume should take Kite further downstage left in order to stage-whisper his next line to him. This should be used as almost an aside with Appletree and Pairmain further upstage quietly whispering to each other. This should add humour to the scene by clearly showing physically the collusion between Plume and Kite.
Following this short aside, Plume’s tone should be noticeably different towards Kite, adopting a more aggressive tone as if he is angry with him for tricking the two men. This should be funny to the audience because they should, through the wink at the beginning of the scene and the aside, know the insincerity of this anger. This dramatic irony should prove humorous. In order to maximise the comedy throughout all of their scenes, I would cast the pair appropriately. To add humour I would cast a short Plume and a tall Kite. This contrast to their status should make the audience laugh, especially when kite is kicked off stage by Plume.
This action in itself should be comical through the use of high kicking and mumbling of insults towards Kite, however the height difference should be an added comic effect. In conclusion I think that through the use of winks, asides and the delivery of specific lines, the collusion between Captain Plume and Kite can be used effectively to portray humour and comedy to the audience in scenes where they appear together. Furthermore I think that the dramatic irony created by little looks and gestures that the audience sees, but other actors do not, further adds to the comedy of the interaction.