The Rivals Adelaide Repertory Theatre

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To ease themselves out of the Covid clutches the Rep has served up a delicious morsel with Richard Sheridan’s comedy of manners “The Rivals”. Astute casting by director Matthew Chapman produced a talented ensemble equipped to deliver all that the play has to offer. With free ranging direction he has used the expanse of the Arts Theatre stage to craft a lively melodramatic romp.

Excellent costume choice and makeup by Beck Jarret together with stylish coiffure by Annie Smith provide just the right visual balance to carry the flavour of the era.

The intricate plot and intersecting subplots are all about courtship, its rules and arrangements designed not just to lead to marriage but to secure the more important preservation of wealth and future fortune. In so doing the focus is on that sliver of social class self possessed with the notion of entitlement. Sheridan serves up his characters au naturel and we love them still. There is deliberate deception, mistaken identity, many notes and letters exchanged and a duel or two that almost take place.

Allison Scharber lives and breathes the “Mills and Boon” dream as most sought after Lydia Languish. She determines to marry for love regardless of status, outcomes or consequence.

Her preferred suitor, Captain Jack Absolute (aka penniless Ensign Beverley) is played with delightful gusto by Patrick Clements. His deception in quest of his suit even fools his father for a while.

Lindsay Dunn is the very epitome of country squire Sir Anthony Absolute affording him superb comic light and shade. He struts his stuff with self assured purpose and knows full well the rules of the charm game. He has an arrangement with Mrs Malaprop re the promise of her niece’s hand in favour of his son Jack.

Kate Anolak as Mrs Malaprop gives her character just the right amount of self importance and dowager distinction. The audience delighted in her famous misplaced vocabulary.

Lydia’s cousin, Julie Melville, is played with a balanced degree of common sense and cool assuredness by Emily Currie. Her sole frustration is the man she loves unequivocally, Faulkland, who indulges a constant zeal for displaying jealous negativity. Don O’Donnell plays him to frustrating perfection.

Guy Henderson as a dandy Bob Acres primps and prances about the edges of the play and is an unlikely suitor for Lydia’s affections. Matt Houston adds a refreshing earthiness as contrast to the polite social mix as Sir Lucius O’Trigger. He may not get quite what he bargained for.

“The Rivals” was an exemplary ensemble effort. It was obvious that each and every cast member thoroughly enjoyed their individual contributions. The play hummed along smoothly and timing was spot on from start to finish from principal and minor characters alike. The audience picked up the vibe and was attentive, appreciative and entertained as a result.

With a gesture both just and generous the Adelaide Repertory Theatre has donated the income from “The Rivals” to the Arts Theatre. I applaud the Rep for that and for the timely message it sends to all theatregoers.

The Rivals
The Adelaide Repertory Theatre
The Arts Theatre