Ian Kelly’s play Mr Foote's Other Leg is a comedy about the life of the eighteenth-century satirist, impressionist and comedian Samuel Foote, exploring the nature of celebrity and an obsession with fame. Based on Ian Kelly's award-winning biography, Mr Foote's Other Leg: Comedy, tragedy and murder in Georgian London (Picador, 2012), the play was first performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on 21 September 2015 (previews from 14 September), transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, on 4 November 2015 (previews from 28 October).
The play is set in London in the mid-eighteenth century. After a prelude in which two people attempt to steal Foote's amputated leg from the Hunterian Collection, the action tracks back twenty years to cover the period from Foote's tutelage under Charles Macklin in the 1740s until his involvement in a controversy that saw his fall from grace in the 1770s.
In an introduction to the published playtext (Nick Hern Books, 2015), Ian Kelly writes: 'in adapting [my biography of Samuel Foote] for the stage I have striven to put across the spirit of Foote – one of the most extraordinary men ever to have worked in the theatre – as much as the factual detail of his bizarre career. At the same time I wanted to express some of the style of the Georgian age – a period I love – but for a modern audience, and therefore the scabrous, sexually knowing underbelly of the Augustan Age is also represented here in all its four-letter, rakehelly, occasionally rancid ridiculousness – and lack of political correctness.'
The Hampstead Theatre premiere was directed by Richard Eyre and designed by Tim Hatley. The cast was Simon Russell Beale (as Foote), Dervla Kirwan, Joseph Millson, Forbes Masson, Micah Balfour, Jenny Galloway, Ian Kelly, Colin Stinton, Sophie Bleasdale and Joshua Elliott.