- United Kingdom Critic
The Rivals, currently playing at Newbury's Watermill Theatre, is an easy-to-watch, light and enjoyable comedy. Set in Bath in 1775, The Rivals follows the story of Lydia Languish, who falls in love with one young man (Beverly), and rejects another (Captain Absolute) … without realising that they are, in fact, the same person. Cue a whole heap of mistaken identity.
The Rivals is an unusually traditional production for the Watermill Theatre, which usually leans more towards shows with a twist, where actor-musicians and ingenious set designs add to the unique texture of each production.
That said, The Rivals is still a fun and enjoyable play. It is full of, in equal measure, subtle wit and tongue-in-cheek jokes. Almost all of this is centred around mistaken identity; however Julia St John (in the role of Mrs Malaprop) also tears apart the English language to great comic effect.
Charlotte Bate, playing the witty and sharp Julia, and Emma Denly, in the more ridiculous role of Lydia Languish, both really drive the story of The Rivals. Equally, Ncuti Gatwa, playing Jack Absolute, is great at being as likeable as he is ludicrous.
Some of the show's cast play multiple roles, and those who do switch seamlessly between the different characters. All of the cast have great energy and keep the audience engaged well.
The Rivals is a great choice for anybody looking to see a classic comedy in a lovely venue. It is playing at the Watermill Theatre until the 21st April 2018.