It would be difficult to think of a more appropriate play or indeed leading lady to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the delightful Theatre Royal Bath.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan actually set this satirical look at the social order of his day amid the historic landmarks of his favourite city. Stephanie Cole, who is a sheer joy as a ‘Mummerset’ version of that serial language abuser Mrs Malaprop, lives near the city and has been a generous participant on the local theatre scene.
In a way, Sheridan would have been entirely at home in modern society, for his comic romp mercilessly rags such familiar targets as new money, malicious gossip, arranged marriages and overbearing relatives. His play could be subtitled ‘I’m a Regency Celebrity - Let Me in Here’ and director Christopher Morahan makes sure the pace never slackens as his splendid 15-strong cast explore all aspects of the wild romantic confusion.
Cole’s fantastical yet also vulnerable Mrs Malaprop is offset by George Baker as a more dignified and wiser Sir Anthony Absolute than usual. The assorted lovers are played with just the right mix of charm, romantic verve and sensibility by Nicholas Boulton (Jack Absolute), Jasmine Hyde (Lydia Languish), Jamie de Courcey (Faulkland) and Kirsty Besterman (Julia). Add in the rumbustious rivals of the title in the larger than life form of Ian Midlane (Bob Acres) and John O’Toole (Sir Lucius O’Trigger) and not even the bicentenary champagne reception in the Square outside afterwards could challenge the sparkle of the performance.