This Comedy of Manners was Sheridan’s first play and was considered to be one of his masterpieces, even coining the reference “Malapropism” taken from the famous character Mrs Malaprop – a moralistic widow. Set in Bath in the 18th Century, a town that was legendary for conspicuous consumption, fashion and wealth; The Rivals centres around the story of two young lovers, Lydia and Jack, infatuated with their alter egos that they portray to each other, whilst also poking fun at the upper classes and their social etiquettes.
As soon as you enter the auditorium you are taken back through song. The light melodic tones on the Harpsichord are heard over the speakers, inviting you in. This was coupled with a few members of the cast, in character, greeting audience members and even having Lucy deliver the standard “please turn off your mobile phones” message, again perfectly in character.
Director Andrew Millward, who also made an appearance as Thomas the Coachman, clearly put a lot of thought into how to convey this almost 250 year old play to a 21st Century audience. There were a couple of instances where references to modern society and pop culture were made; a fist bump handshake and a homage to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. They were perfectly considered and executed but unfortunately with so few similar references, felt a little out of place and didn’t have the desired impact overall.
For a cast of 13 it was delightful to see lots of great performances, too many to talk about individually, but all must be commended for their strong and varied characters. However special mention must go to Lucy, played brilliantly by Barbara Hardwick, who had great stage presence with expert comic timing throughout. There was always a twinkle in her eye which told you she was up to mischief!
Other notable performances were given by Heidi Hamber, who played Lydia Languish; Russell Winsor, Sir Anthony Absolute and Michael Howard, Faukland (the applause after his first appearance was very much deserved!). Although everyone held their character throughout, projected clearly and had excellent diction, the 3-aforementioned had exceptional rapport with the audience which helped to invest in them completely.
It is a shame, however, that there was an issue with the stage right door during the first half but the cast dealt with it professionally and didn’t let it deter from their scenes. Thankfully this was rectified in the interval and was no longer a problem afterwards.
Away from the cast, a nod must be directed towards the tech team. Although the set was kept minimal, there were many scene changes throughout and all were handled with speed and precision by a team that had clearly planned, choreographed and rehearsed the changes to a very high standard – well done!
Although not the societies fault, the length of the play did detract from the all round enjoyment towards the end; there were a few tired eyes in the audience! This is something that hampered the play even in 1775 and required a rewrite from Sheridan 11 days after first opening. That said you can’t take away from the sheer hard work and energy that Kelvedon Players put into this production. It was very much a labour of love and it was great to see that radiating from everyone on stage.
If you are passionate about plays, especially the “less obvious” ones then this society deserves your patronage. Do keep an eye out for their Autumn 2017 production of “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” by Dario Fo.
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Peter Pan, - A Made in Colchester ProductionJuly 28, 2017 – August 26, 2017The Mercury TheatreTickets from www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
The LadyKillersSeptember 7, 2017 – September 30, 2017The New Wolsey TheatreThe New Wolsey Theatre, The Salisbury Playhouse and The Queens Theatre Hornchurch bring this classic Ealing comedy on tour to the region. Tickets: 01473 295900/www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
The WeirSeptember 8, 2017 – September 16, 2017Mercury Theatre, ColchesterThe Mercury Theatre and English Touring Theatre present this winner of the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play. A shadowy tale delving into the corners of human experience. Tickets www.mercurytheatre.co.uk or 01206573948
All Shook Up, Chelmsford Operatic SocietySeptember 26, 2017 – September 30, 2017Civic Theatre, ChelmsfordTickets from 01245 606505 www.chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres
Come Back \to \the Five And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean - Blackmore PlayersSeptember 28, 2017 – September 30, 2017Blackmore Village HallEvening Performances on Thursday & Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 7:30pm. Tickets from www.blackmoreplayers.co.uk T:01277 200305
Reason's to be CheerfulOctober 3, 2017 – October 7, 2017The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswichcelebrating the infectious music of Ian Drury and the Blockheads; a punk rock musical and gritty coming of age tale. Tickets: 01473 295900/www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
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9 to 5 - Witham Operatic SocietyOctober 23, 2017 – October 28, 2017Witham Public Hall, Collingwood Rd, Withamtickets from www.waos.org/box-office
House of Dracula - Chelmsford Theatre WorkshopOctober 31, 2017 – November 4, 2017Nightly at 7:45pm tickets from 01245 606505
Rules for LivingOctober 31, 2017 – November 4, 2017The New Wolsey Theatre, IpswichEveryone creates their own rules for living but what happens when an extended family gathers for a traditional Christmas dinner and each of them rigidly follows those rules? Tickets: 01473 295900/www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
Wait Until DarkNovember 6, 2017 – November 11, 2017The New Wolsey Theatre, IpswichOriginal Theatre presents the Classic, edge of your seat thriller - Wait until Dark. Tickets: 01473 295900/www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
Gypsy - LTCNovember 8, 2017 – November 11, 2017Palace Theatren430 London Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9LA, England
Soho Cinders - SpringersNovember 14, 2017 – November 18, 2017Cramphorn TheatrenFairfield Road, Chelmsford, CM1, England
Singing in the Rain - SODSNovember 22, 2017 – November 25, 2017Palace Theatren430 London Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9LA, England
Red Riding Hood - The Rock and Roll PantoNovember 23, 2017 – January 27, 2018The New Wolsey Theatre, IpswichAnother Brand new Rock and Roll Panto! Tickets: 01473 295900/www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
Snow White and the Seven DwarfsNovember 25, 2017 – January 14, 2018Mercury Theatre, Colchestertickets: www.mercurytheatre.co.uk
Beauty and the Beast - Blackmore PlayersJanuary 18, 2018 – January 20, 2018Blackmore Village Hall