John Lithgow 'priceless' in Pinero's The Magistrate

The National Theatre's spirited, genial Victorian farce makes a great Christmas show

LAST UPDATED AT 07:16 ON Mon 26 Nov 2012

What you need to know
A revival of Arthur Wing Pinero's Victorian farce, The Magistrate, directed by Timothy Sheader has opened at the National Theatre.

The comedy of social embarrassment concerns a respectable magistrate who finds himself caught up in a series of scandalous events that almost cause his disgrace after his wife tells a white lie about her age.

Television and Hollywood star John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun) is the magistrate. Olivier Award-winning Nancy Carroll (After the Dance) is his wife, Agatha, while Joshua McGuire (The Hour) plays her precocious son, Cis.

The Magistrate runs until 10 February and will also be screened live

at 250 UK cinemas on January 17.

What the critics like
This is "a Victorian corker of a show", says Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. Lithgow has a lovely touch for mordant understatement and Nancy Carroll is marvellous as his growly tigress of a spouse, but it's young Joshua McGuire who sends "the production cascading into the happy kingdom of farcical anarchy".

The National Theatre's big Christmas show is a spirited, genial farce, says Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard. Lithgow is charmingly earnest as the magistrate and Nancy Carroll savours the absurdities of Agatha's deceit.

John Lithgow's marvelous soliloquies as the muttonchop-whiskered, mud-spattered, hapless magistrate clutching at the remnants of dignity, are "priceless", says Libby Purves in The Times.

What they don't like
This "gussied-up, semi-musicalised" version of Pinero's play patronises the original, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. The irritating musical interludes, performed by joke-Victorians in curly wigs and striped trousers, slow the action down and "pointlessly adorn Pinero's still-viable, time-proof play".

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