Dressing rooms and where to celeb-spot in Stratford
Stan sits in a box (and it's press night)

The Rivals and why it gave me writer's block

Images-2 I confess I've been struggling with what to write about the Peter Hall-directed, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles-starring The Rivals at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

It's not that I didn't enjoy this very polished version of Sheridan's 18th Century comedy because I did. Keith and Bowles demonstrated the skill and experience you'd expect from acting royalty comfortable with period comedy.

Indeed Keith as marriage-plotting Mrs Malaprop with her famous and highly amusing improper use of words and Bowles as her partner-in-plotting, Sir Anthony Absolute, who is always on the verge of a "frenzy" with his son Jack, were almost addictive.

The younger cast members, playing both the pawns and next generation of schemers, did not outshine but put in solid and respectful performances next to Keith and Bowles.

Sets and props were relatively simple and plain so as not to distract from the characters in their beautiful, flambouyant, late 1700s dress. And the play itself is an amusing comedy of duplicity and misunderstanding as different generations ideas and aspirations about love and marriage clash.

So why the difficulty in reviewing? Well I think it comes down to this: it was an enjoyable evening at the theatre but ultimately a bit forgettable. And for that it makes it slightly difficult to rate. Three stars seems a little stingy for the quality but four a little generous compared to other four-star plays I've seen this year. So I'm going to fudge it for the time being and give it three and a half and I'll just have to decide either way later.


A new connection, I think, for this one. Tam Williams who plays Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals was also in the William Boyd written and directed The Trench back in 1999 in which Mr W also had a part.