Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Hill directs a new co-production between Bristol Old Vic, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals this autumn. The elegant yet earthy 18th-century comedy of manners features some of the most enduring and eccentric comic characters in British theatre and plays at the Citizens Theatre from 2 to 19 November.
Set in the summer streets of Bath, The Rivals follows the fortunes of social climber Mrs Malaprop in her efforts to make a fortuitous match for her niece Lydia Languish. Mrs Malaprop’s plans are thwarted by a series of mistaken identities and complex machinations, with hilarious consequences. The contrivances of The Rivals were inspired by Sheridan’s own romantic entanglements, which fed the gossip-mongers of his day with endless scandal and tittle-tattle.
The production opened at Bristol Old Vic on Thursday 15 September, with critics praising Hill’s production for its boldness and humour and Tom Roger’s set design. The cast assembled have , with Lucy Briggs-Owen’s Made In Chelsea-inspired interpretation of Lydia Languish and Julie Legrand’s preening Mrs Malaprop being particularly lauded.
Legrand returns to the Citizens Theatre as Mrs Malaprop, having been a regular member of the Citizens’ company in the 1980s. In her previous roles at the Citizens, Legrand appeared onstage alongside actors including Gary Oldman, Rupert Everett, Roberta Taylor and Celia Imrie. Legrand has since gone on to perform regularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as in Chichester Festival Theatre’s recent production of Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton and as Jeanette Dunkley in the TV series Footballer’s Wives.
Playing opposite Legrand is Olivier Award-winner Desmond Barrit as Sir Anthony Absolute. A regular performer with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Barrit won an Olivier Award for his role in the company’s The Comedy of Errors and an Olivier nomination for his role as Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2. Legrand and Barrit have previously appeared on stage together as Madam Morrible and The Wizard respectively in Wicked in London’s West End.
Jessica Hardwick returns to the Citizens stage as Julia Melville. Hardwick’s previous performances at the Citizens in Lanark: A Life in Three Acts, Rapunzel, Crime and Punishment and Slope as well as in National Theatre of Scotland’s recent tour of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart mark her as one of Scotland’s finest young actors. They are joined by Nicholas Bishop, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Lily Donovan, Keith Dunphy, Henry Everett, Lee Mengo, Rhys Rusbatch and Shaun Miller, who is one of this season’s Citizens Theatre Actor Interns.
The production premiered at Bristol Old Vic on Thursday 15 September, running until 1 October. The Rivals then plays at the Liverpool Playhouse 5 – 29 October, before its run at the Citizens from 2 – 19 November.
Tickets are on sale now from citz.co.uk or by calling 0141 429 0022. Full price tickets are available from £12.50 – £22.50, with tickets for the preview performance on Wednesday 2 November priced at £9.50. Bargain hunters can join the queue for 50p tickets for The Rivals when they go on sale at 10am on Saturday 29 October.
Header image: Julie Legrand, Desmond Barrit, Lee Mengo and Keith Dunphy in The Rivals. Photo by Mark Douet