Clawing at Sheridan- ‘The Rivals’ at the Southwark Playhouse.

So, there we were, sitting three rows from the front of the stage, in the sneakily situated, and arhcitectually intriguing Southwark Playhouse, when a chap walks in. Nothing remarkable about that you may say, but withhold judgement until you hear what i thought at the time…

“Gosh that bloke looks like David Tennant. I mean he really does. Hang on, that’s not David Tennant is it? It can’t be. Oh my god it is ACTUALLY David Tennant…!” I then duly proceeded to giggle like a star-struck hyena (something i promised myself i’d never do when faced with figures of note).

The Ineffably Lovely Ex-Doctor.

So, after spending five minutes trying to quell my embarrassingly audible and over-excited giggles, whilst inwardly cursing the fact that i hadn’t a seat in the front row, i settled down for a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of ‘The Rivals’ by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Within five seconds of the start, i was in hysterics again (not as a result of indulging in romantic visions of being whisked away by the aforementioned and ineffably tasty ex-Doctor… *swoon*…) but as a result of the comically period serenade of  Beyonce Knowles’  “All the Single Ladies”, from the ample lungs of the fabulous Ella Smith, playing the role of the long-suffering ‘Julia’.

Ms.Smiths performance was geuninely sensitive to the characters’ gentle nature, and was perfectly suited to contrast against the portrayal of ‘Faulkland’ (Julia’s lover) by the LAMDA trained Tom McDonald. McDonald’s ‘Faulkland’ had achieved just the right balance of child-brattishness, lamenting poet and smitten lover in order to make the character insufferable, but not to such a sincere degree where the audience would find him un-likeable.

The show was perfectly cast, with the obviously fabulous Celia Imrie elevating Mrs.Malaprop from a melodramatic caricature of a word-mangling spinster, to an up-roariously funny, but ultimately isolated woman whom had fully engaged the audiences’ sympathy by the conclusion of the performance.

Excluding the odd distracting rattle over-head (which is only to be expected when you’re in a    theatre situated beneath a bridge) the entire production was captivating with an in-corruptible energy, even after the interval, from which it is notoriously difficult to re-establish previous performative energy and audience interest (frequently due to the inticingly intoxicating advantages of the Playhouse bar).

The whole audience was fully absorbed by both the comic, and more pathotic actions on stage, and (quite rightly) gave a well-deserving cast a substantial round of applause at the curtain call. Frankly, the poor dears (the cast that is, not the audience) must have been exhausted (lord knows how they’ll keep up the energy for the whole run, but I sincerely hope they do!)

I don’t think i should say much more. I don’t really want to divulge too many of the details which made it such a wonderful interpretation, as you WILL want to see this, and i’d hate to spoil it for you..! Although, (sorry ladies) I cannot guarantee that the lovely David Tennant would be there again… *swoon*…


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