The Rivals

Lovers’ tiffs, intrigue and deception run rife when the fashionable folk
descend on Bath in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s quintessentially English
comedy of manners which was first performed in 1775.

Lydia Languish has had her head turned by too many romantic novels and plans
to elope with the man she believes to be a lowly ensign, but who is, in
reality, Captain Jack, the son of wealthy Sir Anthony Absolute who, unknown
to him, has already arranged his marriage – to the very same Lydia.

Meanwhile a pugnacious Irish baronet and a cowardly country buffoon are all
set to draw swords over the capricious young heiress even though she has no
interest in either of them, and her cousin (Annabel Scholey’s intelligent
Julia) is driven to despair by the self-indulgent insecurities of Tony
Gardner’s suspicious Faulkland.

Against the constant backdrop of Simon Higlett’s simple Royal Crescent
design, duels are almost fought, misunderstandings are finally sorted out
and the true natures of Sheridan’s characters are exposed in all their

Director Peter Hall has just turned 80, and the best performances come from
the oldest members of the cast – Peter Bowles as an elegant, once racy Sir
Anthony who always gets his way and Penelope Keith as Lydia’s guardian, Mrs
Malaprop, who, sadly, may not find a husband but is a master at mangling the
English language, muddling her “pineapple” with her “pinnacle” and her
“alligator” with her “allegory” in this elegantly costumed, sprightly but
rather uninspired revival. 


Theatre Royal Haymarket, Haymarket, SW1Y 4HT
0845 481 1870
Tube: Piccadilly
Until 26th February

– Louise Kingsley