by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Tour to 6 November 2010.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Tim0othy Ramsden 20 September at Richmond Theatre.
Fresh and funnier than ever.
Peter Hall has directed a Rivals unrivalled in fresh detail, combining the assured authority of experience with a youthful sense of excitement. Which isn’t shared by the play’s young female lead. “Heigh-ho,” repeatedly sighs Robyn Addison’s Lydia, hair, dress and straight-backed posture signs of social readiness, while her stillness and lack of sufficient strength to sustain emphasis throughout a moderate-length sentence make her the evident ancestor of modern “Whatever” youth.
Her faked love-letter, written so she could accuse her boyfriend of infidelity, gains new currency when Tam Williams’
Jack makes off with a Bath whore at the start, and zooms after her again at the interval. Hall marks out separate male and female territory clearly, as he does with the other pair of lovers, whose difficulties are imposed by Faulklland’s psychology, which so absorbs him he ignores Julia’s feelings.
Annabel Scholey is a well-balanced, concerned Julia, while Tony Gardner’s Faulkland is like a didactic teacher or lawyer, right hand grasping his lapel as he pronounces his anxieties, taking-up deliberate poses as he stands, or sits expecting Julia to return to him. Keiron Self’s Bob neatly contrasts Gerard Murphy’s Sir Lucius, Sheridan’s fellow-countryman, playing down the fiery occupant of Blunderbuss Hall, turning a comic stage figure of the period into someone whose confidence in talk goes with ineffectuality in action.
But the production’s chief glories are its older characters. Penelope Keith gives the malapropisms a subtle energy, making it seem her character isn’t emphasising them at all; they are more humorous for apparently bobbing along in a natural flow of words. Behaving with matronly dignity rather than grande dame style, Keith finds elements of sympathy for the old lady.
And Peter Bowles makes Sir Anthony’s temper a thing of joy for the audience, increased by his absence of self-awareness. The moment when he nearly undermines a father’s authority is hilarious, while there’s a clear male complicity with his son, seen in the way he pats Jack’s shoulder before calming Mrs Malaprop’s anger against the lad, and as he thrusts himself upon the lady in the proposal that ends this treasurable evening.
Captain Jack Absolute: Tam Williams.
Fag: Ian Conningham.
Thomas: Martin Bishop.
Lydia Languish: Robyn Addison.
Lucy: Carlyss Peer.
Julia Melville: Annabel Scholey.
Mrs Malaprop: Penelope Keith.
Sir Anthony Absolute: Peter Bowles.
Faulkland: Tony Gardner.
Bob Acres: Keiron Self.
Sir Lucius O’Trigger: Gerard Murphy.
Errand Boy: Rhys Jennings.
Acres’ Servant/Faulkland’s Servant: Esward Harrison.
Julia’s Maid: Bishanyia Vincent.
Director: Peter Hall.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Composer: Mick Sands.
Costume: Christopher Woods.
Movement: Ian Brener.
Associate director: Cordelia Monsey.