Jack Absolute Flies Again by Richard Bean and Oliver Chris based in Sheridan’s The Rivals. The Olivier, the National Theatre to 3 September 2022. 2** .William Russell.

Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Governors, was one of the National Theatre’s biggest successes so hopes must have been high for this latest effort which takes the Rivals and sets the action in 1940 on an airfield from which the few are flying. It has lots of very funny lines but the result is a bit like watching a Benny Hill show today – you laugh, but it is all very uncomfortable and sexist. I saw it in preview so by the time press night came it might have been tightened – it is very long, well ove two and a half hours – but I would not count on it. Everything seems to have been tossed into it from unidentifiable aircraft projected flying all over the auditorium to a full scale production number dance which serves no plot purpose but does rouse everyone’s spirits no end. But Sheridan’s plot goes by the board, and tye send up of all those patriotic RAF movies is pretty hit and miss and while Caroline Quentin gets some fine malapropisms she is no longer a lady but a former musical hall artiste who has bettered herself and woos Sir Anthony Absolute ( being finely bellicose) by doing the splits. It certainly set the house alight- in other words it sets out to make the audience laugh and one laughs – but that doesn’t alter the fact one was left with that awful feeling of discomfort at having laughed at material like this.

Jack Absolute: Laurie Davidson.
Lydia Languish: Natalie Simpson.
Mrs Malaprop: Caroline Quentin.
Dudley Scunthorpe: Kevin Fletcher.
Sir Anthony Absolute: Peter Forbes.
Bob Acres: James Corrigan.
Lucy: Kerry Howard.
Brian Coventry: Tim Steed.
Bikram Khatri: Akshay Sharan.
Julia Melville: Helena Wilson.
Ensemble – Geoffrey Tavers; Shona White; George Kemp; Chris Jenkins; Millie Hikasa; Sheilam Gohil; Theo Cowan.

Director: Emily Burns.
Set & Costume Designer: Mark Thompson.
Lighting Designer: Tim Lutkin.
Sound Designer: Paul Areditti.
Choreography: Lizzie Gee.
Video Designer: Jeff Sugg.
Composer: Paul Englishby.
Musical Director: Chris Traves.

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