The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar

4 01 2013

For those of you who are not familiar with your theatre history, The Recruiting Officer is a Restoration Comedy. It was written back in the early 17th Century and is one of the most famous and successful plays by Irish playwright George Farquhar.

 It was adapted into a novel and inspired two later plays: “Trumpets and Drums” by Bertolt Brecht (1955) and “Our Countries Good” by Timberlake Wertenbaker (1988).

It is also likely to be the death of me.

It is the text that is taught to A-Level Drama students at my school – studied alongside the more modern text “Our Countries Good”.

I should mention that I am not normally charged with the delivery of the A-Level course and that I have been given this class due to unforeseen circumstances at very short notice to cover long term sickness of a beloved colleague. Whilst I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I am less than happy about the stimulus.

Drama is not part of the National Curriculum as a discreet subject in its own right but it appears repeatedly as part of the English Curriculum. This is something of a blessing and a curse for Drama teachers. In theory it affords us the opportunity to devise the content of lessons unrestricted by the rigid requirements imposed on other subject areas but as we are a creative breed it does require a level of discipline to focus our attention and commit to one area rather than drifting from idea to idea in pursuit of excellence. However despite the illusion of independence I still have to answer to my head of department and for the last 30 years she has taught The Recruiting Officer as part of the AS exam and therefore I must do the same – for now. We currently use Edexcel and I am of course speaking of the Unit 1 exam (for those of you in the know).

I would not find delivery of this Unit so arduous if I had been provided with existing detailed records of work outlining the content of previous lessons – no point in reinventing the wheel after all, but I have not the first idea of what has been taught in previous years and cannot fathom why my HOD would use this particular text or what she does in individual lessons.

I know what you are thinking: look it up online. I have!!!

I can find no evidence that anyone else teaches the Recruiting Officer but of course not everyone shares there resources online. I have examined Schemes of Work used with other AS texts trying to find crossovers, exercises that are universal. But the only useful material I have discovered is linked to the theory.

But the theory is easy. I have already taught lessons about Theatre History and students have made links between different genres in different time periods and established where The Recruiting Officer fits into the “Big Picture”. They know and can identify the characteristics of Restoration comedy and make links with how The Recruiting Officer fits the genre.

I have also completed text based analysis exploring the use of language and the subtext; I have also created questions to assess their comprehension of each and every scene.

What I am currently lacking is not the social, historical and political context or strategies to unravel the meaning of the text but rather practical exploration techniques that suit my practical subject area. After all I am not an English teacher. The theory, understanding and analysis of a text will only take me so far. It is how one applies this knowledge to practical work that counts.

As a drama teacher I should find this easy but I am feeling so bogged down in the research and theory that I am somewhat lacking in inspiration. I checked out the TES website but I cannot even find another SOW for a different text that I can use as a starting point – a kind of template if you will that I could adapt to suit the themes, issues, characters etc of the text I am wrestling with. I suppose it would be different if I wasn’t feeling the pressure of time.

The one authority on all things “Recruiting Officer” is Max Stafford Clarke’s book “Letters to George” and despite going through it cover to cover with a fine tooth comb I can only find a small number of examples of practical strategies to use with specific scenes and characters. Yes I know about the playing cards etc. but I cannot seem to find a way of applying this in a one hour lesson in a meaningful way.

Perhaps I am simply suffering a sort of “director’s or teachers block” but it is the practical nature of my subject that first attracted me to it and I am extremely frustrated that I cannot find practical means of exploring this particular text.

Whatever happens I must deliver at least 5 more sessions and they must engage students practically not just theoretically.

Wish me luck!!!




8 responses

9 04 2013

I have had a few hits on this post from google searches from people looking for teaching packs and resources for RO. PLease leave a comment if you would like me to send any of the work I created for this unit of work as I am happy to share especially as it is such a difficult text and there doesnt seem to be a lot available.

28 04 2013
Connor Campbell

Yes please! if you still have any of the work you created for this unit, i would be appreciative of it

28 04 2013

Is there an email I can send it to?
Its not perfect and not written as a formal lesson plan but research may give you a starting point to work from. Would appreciate you to feedback anything you add to it.
What do you teach?

14 06 2013
Patrick Cooper

Me as well please! I’m a student and my exam is next week I’ve been working through the text for the past week and a half but its so difficult to approach unassisted, the thing just deteriorates into a confusing riddle every cuople of scenes. My email is, any help at all would be gratefully accepted.

2 05 2013
Ruth Keeler

I have just been landed with teaching the recruiting officer to a y13 class – I have not been left with any resources at all as the teacher left school and took them. I would really appreciate any help you could give.
Thank you

2 05 2013

I was in a very similar situation in September. I will sort through some stuff and email it to you 🙂

2 07 2013

Hi! I have found myself in a similar situation next year with no resources. I’d really appreciate any resources you’d be willing to share.
Best wishes

2 07 2013

Is it The Recruiting Officer you are teaching?
And do you have an email I can send to?

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