Trinity College gardens provide a handsome setting for this production and the cast did well to cope with both the inclement weather and the noisy interruptions from the outside world. It has not been a kind summer for outdoor productions – I do hope things improve soon for them.
Drama of the Georgian period requires a certain lightness of touch to bring it fully to life for a modern audience. From our modern perspective, the complex social rules that were being satirized by Sheridan seem somewhat alien. Some of the actors are clearly more at home in the genre than others: Colin Burnie gives a delightfully nuanced performance as Sir Anthony – capturing the essence of the man. Bill Moulford and Alex Rogers both bring their characters fully to life with lively and well-rounded portrayals. Of the below stairs characters, Rowena Lennon as Lucy (the maid) stands out – she is sparky and consistently entertaining.
When bringing period pieces such as The Rivals to the stage, it is important that the details are right. This applies in all areas – movement, gesture, costume, plot, make-up and many more. The costumes, supplied by the RSC, are certainly attractive and the many wigs complete the sumptuous look. Unfortunately some of the props and gestures are clearly too modern to allow us to fully escape into the 18th Century – a minor point – but one that does jar.
I commend the Guild for their courage in breaking out from their traditional choice of playwright. The Rivals is an entertaining play and one that has the potential to do well as a garden show. I sincerely hope that the weather improves for them and that audiences enjoy this quintessentially English play.