The Rivals

This show has now closed, click here for a listing of current and future London shows

Previewed 10 November 2010, opened 23 November 2010, closed 26 February 2011 at the Haymarket Theatre in London

A major revival of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's classic comedy The Rivals in London starring Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles and directed by Sir Peter Hall.

It's 1775 and the fashionable world descends on Bath, to take the waters, to show off their finery, to enjoy the gossip and to pursue romance. Amongst them are some of the most extraordinary comic characters to grace the stage: the verbally misguided Mrs Malaprop, her absurdly romantic niece, Lydia Languish, the blinkered Sir Anthony Absolute, the blustering Irishman Sir Lucius O'Trigger and the bumpkin Bob Acres. Throughout the course of single day these suitors and schemers and their servants indulge in an assortment of hilariously extravagant intrigues before everyone is paired off to their own satisfaction.

The cast for The Rivals in London features Penelope Keith as 'Mrs Malaprop' and Peter Bowles as 'Sir Anthony Absolute' along with Annabel Scholey as 'Julia', Tony Gardner as 'Faulkland', Tam Williams as 'Captain Jack Absolute', Robyn Addison as 'Lydia Languish', Gerard Murphy as 'Sir Lucius O'Trigger' and Keiron Self as 'Bob Acres'. The production is directed by Peter Hall with designs by Simon Higlett and comes to the London's Haymarket Theatre - which opened on 4 July 1821 with a prodcution of The Rivals - from a successful season at theatre Theatre Royal Bath. Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, perhaps best known for their lead roles in one of the most watched British sitcoms of all time To The Manor Born. Watched by millions In To the Manor Born centred around the 'love-hate' relationship between the formidable 'Audrey fforbes-Hamilton' played by Penelope Keith and the dashing 'Richard DeVere' played by Peter Bowles. Now they reunited to perform together on stage for the first time in Sheridan's delightful period romp. Penelope Keith recent London stage credits include playing the role of 'Lady Bracknell' in Peter Gill's revival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest (Vaudeville Theatre 2008). Peter Bowles recent West End theatre credits include playing the role of 'David Bliss' opposite Judi Dench as 'Judith Bliss' in Sir Peter Hall's revival of Noel Coward's classic comedy Hay Fever (Haymarket Theatre 2006), the role of 'Joseph Duveen' opoosite Edward Fox as 'Bernard Berenson' in Simon Gray's play Old Masters (Harold Pinter Theatre 2004), Joe Harmston's revival of Frederick Knott's thriller Wait Until Dark (Garrick Theatre 2003) and Ron Hutchinson's new play The Beau (Haymarket Theatre 2001). Peter Hall's credits include Lenny about Lenny Bruce starring Eddie Izzard (Queen's Theatre 1999).

"Sir Peter Hall's... production fresh from Bath wherein the action of Sheridan's play is set is a triumph of subtle farce and linguistic dexterity. Against the sun-warmed stones of Simon Higlett's simple but evocative set the high comedy of mistaken identities, romantic deceptions and mercenary manoeuvres is played out with a textual precision that is Hall's trademark... Penelope Keith gets the tone just right, giving her character's aspirational absurdities an easy fluidity with a precise diction that keeps even the most forced mispronouncements afloat... Peter Bowles, as Sir Anthony Absolute, can rake the audience with the glare of a gouty headmaster before delivering a finely-nuanced speech suggesting a potential estate for his son comes with 'livestock' attached, ie, a wife... From start to finish, Hall's production fizzes like freshly-opened champagne. Highly recommended. " The Daily Express

"This is one of those great Irish comedies that make their home in the English theatre, sending up English life with affectionate relish... The play is set in Bath, and it unfolds before a backcloth of what looks like the Royal Crescent... Peter Hall's production is a mixed blessing. Faulkland is a more complex character than Tony Gardner plays him, and Robyn Addison's Lydia lacks the petulant sentimentality that makes her both silly and lovable. But you do get Penelope Keith as Mrs Malaprop and Peter Bowles as Sir Anthony Absolute: diamond performances from two regal actors who are masters of poise, voice and the art of serious hilarity." The Sunday Times

Playwright and orator Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) wrote two comic masterpieces for the stage, The Rivals and The School for Scandal. Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born in Dublin. In 1770 the Sheridan family moved to Bath where Richard fell in love with a beautiful young singer, Elizabeth Linley with whom he eloped and later married. Sheridan based The Rivals on many of the events in his own life.

This production of The Rivals was originally staged at the Theatre Royal Bath previewed from 7 September 2010, opened on 8 September 2010 and closed on 18 September 2010 after which it went on a regional tour: Richmond Theatre (20 to 25 September 2010); Norwich Theatre Royal Norwich (27 September to 2 October 2010); Cambridge Arts Theatre (4 to 9 October 2010); Nottingham Theatre Royal Notttingham (11 to 16 October 2010); Brighton Theatre Royal Brighton (18 to 23 October 2010); Malvern Festival Theatre (25 to 30 October 2010); and Chichester Festival Theatre (1 to 6 November 2010).

The Rivals in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 10 November 2010, opened on 23 November 2010 and closed on 26 February 2011.