HE WAS said to be irritable and generous, often depressed but nonetheless a great wit.
Time to meet one of the most colourful figures of the 18th century, Samuel Johnson.
The place is the Lawrence Batley Theatre, the great man’s story told in A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson.
This is a new show from Max Stafford-Clark’s remarkable theatre company Out of Joint and it plays the LBt’s Cellar theatre on Monday night
The piece has been adapted from James Boswell’s biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson and his journal of the tour to the Hebrides that he undertook with Dr Johnson.
Actors Russell Barr and Ian Redford, who take the roles of Boswell and Dr Johnson, have written the adaptation along with Max Stafford-Clark, one of the country’s leading theatre directors.
Ian Redford is a stage actor with an extensive career.
He has appeared at the National Theatre, the Old Vic and Shakespeare’s Globe.
To TV viewers, he may be familiar as Keith Appleyard in Coronation Street, a role he played for two years.
Russell Barr gets to play not just Boswell but a host of other characters in Johnson’s circle.
Through him you will meet the playwright Oliver Goldsmith, the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds and even Johnson’s evil-tempered housekeeper, Mrs Williams.
Russell trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and has an extensive stage and TV career. He has worked on a number of previous productions with Out Of Joint and also works as a writer.
With him in this show, in a bit of casting which surely would have amused Johnson himself, is that of Russell’s Jack Russell terrier Katie.
Russell rescued Katie from a high rise block in Kilburn and is obviously training her for a new career – in showbusiness.
In A Dish Of Tea With Dr Johnson, Katie the dog plays Hodge, a cat.
For the record, Katie is said to be “A rather bossy, happy dog, who enjoys sleeping in a bed, and panting.Š She doesn’t like fireworks, or diesel fuelled vehicles.”
As for the London-based company Out Of Joint, it has a reputation for staging and developing the work of new writers.
It is perhaps almost a decade since the company was last at the LBT but its productions have a well earned reputation for quality.
And here is Max Stafford-Clark’s explanation of that curious title for the show.
“Literary biography has been a constant in Out of Joint’s work over the last 15 years,” he said .
“With A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson we return to the fascinating world of the great Dr Johnson.
“Until the middle of the 19th century only the two patent houses, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, were permitted to present drama.
“So when Samuel Foote, Johnson’s contemporary, presented his evening of comic impersonations and vignettes it was billed as An Invitation to a Dish of Chocolate with Samuel Foote. From him we have purloined our title.”