The Rivals, Richmond Theatre, September 2010

How do you play a character who has given her name to a word in the Oxford dictionary? Sincerely rather than as a caricature is what Penelope Keith gave us in her elegantly intelligent and sharply drawn portrayal of Mrs. Malaprop. It was a glowing performance, very well supported by Peter Bowles as an irascibly charming Sir Anthony Absolute, with Tam Williams smugly confident as his son Jack. The pretty and persistently wayward Lydia — Mrs. Malaprop’s niece — was beautifully portrayed by Robyn Addison, making her professional debut. What a delightful performance, and her cousin Julia, and Julia’s beloved Faulkland, were very well performed by Annabel Scholey and Tony Gardner.

Peter Bowles as Sir Anthony and Penelope Keith as Mrs Malaprop

The production by Peter Hall, from the Theatre Royal Bath, is wonderful fun, with excellent comic timing from Keiron Self as Bob Acres, and Gerard Murphy as a delightfully absurd Sir Lucius O’Trigger, looking just like a character from Alice in Wonderland. This period piece by Sheridan, with its stylised sense of humour, is a welcome relief from some of the politically correct theatre of today, and came over without the slightest feeling of contrivance. For an enjoyable evening of theatre it’s hard to beat.

After Richmond the production tours to: Theatre Royal Norwich Sept 17–Oct 2; Cambridge Arts Theatre Oct 4–9; Theatre Royal Nottingham Oct 12–16; Festival Theatre Malvern Oct 25–30; Festival Theatre Chichester Nov 1–6; with an as yet unconfirmed transfer to the West End.

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