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The Rivals at The Lowry

Zounds, hey ho and more zounds. Sheridan wrote this great comedy of manners in the mid 18th century and set it in his hometown of Bath...

Published on March 22nd 2006.


The Rivals at The Lowry

Zounds, hey ho and more zounds. Sheridan wrote this great comedy of manners in the mid 18th century and set it in his hometown of Bath. A place of conspicuous consumption inhabited by a variety of "grotesques". Romance, love, lies, deceit and a general denigration of the order of the day were his materials.

Artifice is the basic working tool. Out of this , the 23 year old Sheridan weaves this comic, literary masterpiece. Reading it only increases one's admiration for the playwright . The direct comparisons are Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward but as in another context we are told such comparisons "are odorous" suffice to say the play is suffused with wit and a great social awareness.

This production is well designed by Mark Bailey with an excellent score by the exceptionally talented Ilona Sekacz. The staging is ordinary, the actors failing for the most part to impart that artifice which is an essential part of the incredible story. The joy of the language , the absurdity of the characters and the pleasure of the absurd were all missing.

Nicholas Boulton made a marvellous Captain Jack Absolute and Kirsty Besterman a fine Julia Melville.

Sir Anthony Absolute did not ring any of the right bells in the anger, tyranny or domineering departments. Sadly I also found many of Mrs Malaprop's hilarious distortions of the English language difficult to hear or decipher.

This is a much loved, frequently performed play. Maybe it suffers because of this, but it felt like a rather tired performance of this classic piece of theatre by a company already packing its props.

Richard Burbage
March 2006

The Lowry , Salford Quays, until Saturday 25th March.

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