Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Rivals

To see a splendid production of Sheridan's The Rivals, his Bath-based tale of rivalry and comic misunderstanding, at the refurbished Theatre Royal last night. Penelope Keith was simply splendid as the wary aunt, Mrs Malaprop, enhanced by the sheer pleasure of absorbing so many of her malopropisms. She was ably supported by Peter Bowles as the Sir Anthony Absolute, played with timely moderation, and a fine cast, notably Gerard Murphy as the blustering stage Irishman Sir Lucius O'Trigger, Robyn Addison as the languid Lydia and Tony Gardiner as Faulkland. But this was very much an ensemble performance, under Sir Peter Hall's incomparable direction, that served to remind the capacity audience at Bath of the wonderful wit of this 1775 play (with its operatic echoes). Sheridan was just 23 when he wrote it, though his first effort extended to four hours, mercifully halved for later audiences. The reunion of Keith and Bowles is an added pleasure in this excellent start to a new Bath season.

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