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A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson

Adapted by Russell Barr, Ian Redford and Max Stafford-Clark from James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
Out of Joint
Traverse 2

If you did not know that Dr Johnson had died a couple of hundred years ago, it would be easy to believe that he is treading the boards at the Traverse this week.

Ian Redford makes a tremendous fist of bringing "Dictionary" Johnson to the stage, warts and all. The experience might not compare with reading Boswell's lengthy Life, but as an overview of the great man and his peers, it cannot be faulted.

While Johnson was a polymath, he was also an irritable, ugly man who said what he thought regardless of the consequences.

The Doctor may have penned a variety of different books including the epic dictionary but he would now be forgotten were it not for his friendship with James Boswell, a Scottish laird and rake.

"Bozzy" is embodied by one of Redford's co-creators Russell Barr, who also gets the pleasure of imitating a number of other characters including George III, Flora Macdonald, blind Mrs Williams, Joshua Reynolds and Oliver Goldsmith.

The only two parts that he doesn't take on are Hodge the cat, unusually played by a spaniel, and Trudie Styler's Hester Thrale-Piozzi, the society hostess with whom the good Doctor fell in love but who could not be prevailed upon to marry him.

Together, they tease out the story of this singular genius and enable him to trot out all of his best aphorisms and definitions, much to the delight of an appreciative audience.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher