Camden Fringe 2011
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate
The King’s Players presents a new version of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ set in 1920’s Monte Carlo. Jack Absolute, has fallen for the beautiful, romance-obsessed Lydia Languish, but his plan to win her hand grows steadily more complicated as a host of madcap characters become involved. In one frantic afternoon he must find his way through a web of intrigue and try not to lose the girl, his life, or both.
This rendition of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’ set in 1920’s Monte Carlo captures the essence of wealth, grandeur and the interplay of disguise and deception with the societal interaction and intrigue, exemplary of the restoration era with games involving love and marriage.
Although it was written 100 years after Wycherley’s restoration classic ‘The Country Wife’, this play reminded me somewhat of the era where the essence of the comedy of manners is distinctly enthused throughout. With an outstanding comedic performance from Louise Bastock as the eccentric and peculiar Mrs Malaprop and her accurate partnership with David Bentley’s ‘stuffy’ Sir Anthony Absolute provides for great entertainment.
Interestingly, the distinct characteristic and articulacy of 18th century representation lends itself excellently to this 1920’s Monte Carlo adaptation where the costuming, design and direction in this production compliment its intention and charm.
Although the play encompasses the dutiful happy ending(s) the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, as they say. Falkland’s weak attempt at winning Julia’s heart is apparent with his unsuccessful and pitiful game playing, where Sahil Batra’s performance accurately captures the shy and sensitive man trying too hard.
On the other hand, Jack Absolute the obvious opposite successfully wins the heart of love interest Lydia Languish despite her falling for his masquerade as the struggling actor, Beverley. As the play progresses into Act III you warm to Jack and at the same time warm to Pearce Sampson’s performance as the confident socialite.
With this production being part of the Camden Fringe, Upstairs at the Gatehouse provides a lovely venue with an intimate theatre space accurate for this production.