sun 26/09/2021

The Rivals, Theatre Royal, Haymarket | reviews, news & interviews

The Rivals, Theatre Royal, Haymarket

The Rivals, Theatre Royal, Haymarket

A new production of a classic play has elegance but lacks excitement

Weather-beaten she-dragon: Penelope Keith as Sheridan's beloved duenna Mrs MalapropNobby Clark

“Suicide, parricide and salivation!” Not the ecstasies of a masochist, but the mangled verbal fanfare announcing that The Rivals – Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s classic comedy of manners – is once again a fixture in London’s West End. When it comes to powerhouse comedic casting, the National Theatre has long had the laurels for 2010 sewn up in Simon Russell Beale’s voluminous britches. Partnered by Fiona Shaw in Dion Boucicault’s London Assurance, the pair were mighty indeed. Now, in the dying breaths of the year, we have Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles reunited in two much-beloved comedy roles. So does their Rivals live up to its name and challenge for comedic supremacy?

“Suicide, parricide and salivation!” Not the ecstasies of a masochist, but the mangled verbal fanfare announcing that The Rivals – Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s classic comedy of manners – is once again a fixture in London’s West End. When it comes to powerhouse comedic casting, the National Theatre has long had the laurels for 2010 sewn up in Simon Russell Beale’s voluminous britches. Partnered by Fiona Shaw in Dion Boucicault’s London Assurance, the pair were mighty indeed. Now, in the dying breaths of the year, we have Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles reunited in two much-beloved comedy roles. So does their Rivals live up to its name and challenge for comedic supremacy?

Tam Williams's puppyish hero oozes uncomplicated PG appeal - an 18th-century Jack Wills advertisement personified

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