The set for this classic play is very simple - a couple of scaffold towers covered in white fairy lights, four plants, six chairs and a tiled floor. It’s a really fast-paced production, so the audience is carried along by the rhythm of the piece. Between scenes the chairs are carried aloft around the stage in short formal dances.
Katherine Senior (Mrs Malaprop) in The Rivals at the Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford Photo: Zoe Barnes
Jack Hulland (Sir Anthony Absolute, Bob Acres) flying into a rage as Sir Anthony draws the first spontaneous applause of the evening. Jonathan Parish (Captain Jack Absolute, David, Thomas) does a very good romantic lead, and Harvey Robinson (Fag, Faulkland, Sir Lucius O’Trigger) is excellent, particularly when feeling sorry for himself as Faulkland.
Kate Sharp (Lucy, Julia) copes brilliantly with the accent changes between her two characters and Lucy Theobald does well to engage the audience’s interest in the spoilt brat that is Lydia.
Katherine Senior is exquisite as Mrs Malaprop - it’s worth seeing the production for her performance alone. She continually encourages the audience into her conspiracy with lots of little sideways glances and smiles.
What is astonishing is the relevance of the dialogue to today’s audience. Lines such as, “Thought does not become a young woman” make the hairs on the back of the neck tingle - especially the way this company delivers them. What is a quite complex drama for modern audiences - relying on artifice and confusion rather than action and character, not to mention a totally different world view - is delivered with a light and speedy touch, and with a little fencing thrown in for good measure. Great fun.