Thursday, 30 October 2014

'The Rivals' Arcola Theatre ****

One has often wondered why certain dramatic genres rarely become re-staged; in particular Restoration theatre? The Arcola Theatre, in Dalston presents us with Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play, ’The Rivals’, and one found this unique rediscovery was immensely charming and amusingly performed. ‘The Rivals’ takes place in Bath over the course of one single afternoon where we are familiarised with two youthful lovers, Lydia Languish and Captain John Absolute. To initiate the relationship, Jack decides to create an alter-ego, known as “Beverly”, who is a poor officer, and Lydia is enticed by the concept of eloping with someone from a lower class. However, her guardian Mrs Malaprop protests against Lydia’s ideas, and inevitably states that this plan will never materialise whatsoever Lydia has two other prospective suitors, Bob Acres, an idiotic country gentleman, and Sir Lucius O’Trigger, a penniless Irish man. Jack's father, Sir Anthony Absolute arranges for Jack to marry someone who he is never met. Jack obviously explains that he is already in love with someone else, and whilst they argue with one other, Jack learns that the woman his father has chosen is in fact his lover, Lydia. The constant quarrels when Jack's actual identity is revealed to Lydia as the wealthy Captain Jack Absolute allows us to witness the fundamental romance blossoming through this fraught atmosphere.  Bob Acres exclaims to Sir Lucius that another male is courting the woman that Lucius is hoping to marry. This instigates a battle to see who will ultimately become the woman’s soon-to-be husband. When the duel is supposed to occur, Acres is disinclined to fight “Beverly”. As well as, Sir Lucius is not as forgiving and endeavours to murder Jack. Nonetheless, when the confusion into who is courting who is resolved, Jack, Sir Lucius and Bob decided to finish the duel.  Brinsley Sheridan's narrative is vastly charismatic as we are observing a style that is rarely performed within London, and it appears to be an increasingly warm environment, even though you are sat down for three hours. The performances by the company of ‘The Rivals’ were excellently portrayed, and one found their characterisations to be really calming. Iain Bachelor is splendid as the quite attractive, Captain Jack Bachelor; in particular when we see his agonising desire to obtain Lydia’s affections as someone else. Nicholas Le Provost is fascinating as Jack's authoritarian father, Sir Anthony; especially when we see his vindictive nature exude when he exposes Jack as a wealthy and prominent individual, as well as, his comedy is brilliantly fluid throughout. Jennifer Rainsford is appealing as Jack's conquest, Lydia; singularly when she conveys her disgust by Jack's constant lies and her vocal work was grand too. Selena Cardell's direction is beautiful here as we are welcomed to fully interact with the actors, who at points come out of character and politely communicate to us as if they were in a general conversation. The comedy is enormously well considered as one laughed constantly, as did my fellow audience members .Emma Bailey and Rosalind Ebbutt’s sets and costumes are sublime here as one was immediately engrossed into the environment of the restoration period, and the scenic textures were quite interesting and phenomenally sophisticated. Overall, one found the experience of ‘The Rivals’ to be one of such splendour, and will never be erased from one's memory. Purchase tickets for this performance if you can.

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