14. The Rivals (1972)

With thanks to Phil Dumville for the above

The Rivals

Mr. D. Dixon

"The Rivals", by Sheridan was performed in the school hall on 1st, 2nd and 4th December, 1971. We were delighted that the female characters were drawn this year from St. Mary's and we hope that this will be the first of many joint dramatic productions. The acting was uniformly good and the production by Mr. A. J. Tisdall achieved the usual high standard.

The play is a Comedy of Manners, in which the finger of mocking amusement is pointed at a variety of characters who make their affected way through the Bath society known so well to Sheridan himself. Love is the medium he uses for ridiculing society's foibles. Lydia Languish, whose name reflects her chief passion, does the fashionable thing and falls in love with an ensign called Beverley. The ensign, however, is no other than Captain Absolute, the hero of the play, who is concealing his identity out of respect for Lydia's romantic attachment to the notion of a marriage beneath her station. Also in love with Lydia is Acres, a not too prepossessing country squire, and Sir Lucius O'Trigger, an Irish gentleman. However through the impishness of Lucy, Lydia's maid, he has in fact been engaged in correspondence with one called Delia who is not the attractive young lady described to him by Lucy but Mrs. Malaprop, Lydia's aunt. Mrs. Malaprop, who cannot help displaying her impressive-sounding vocabulary, whether it is appropriate or not, is scheming with Sir Anthony Absolute to marry Lydia off to his son who, of course, is already in love with her, though under a different label. Much of the amusement in this play comes from the splendid arguments between Sir Anthony and his son as the situation works itself out.

When Acres learns that Beverley has already captured the heart of Lydia, he is persuaded by Sir Lucius to challenge him to a duel and Sir Lucius, on the mistaken assumption that he has been corresponding with Lydia is determined to settle that issue too in a manner that befits a gentleman by challenging Captain Absolute. The situation is saved by Acres' servant David who summons Sir Anthony to bring the affray to an end by his imperious presence. Lydia swallows her pride and accepts the well-to-do Captain Absolute, but poor Mrs. Malaprop finds Sir Lucius strangely unattracted by her, now that he has had a chance to see his 'Delia' in person. Acres, on finding that his rival has all along been his old friend Jack Absolute is keen enough to give up the challenge and quite resolved never to get himself into a similar situation. While this plot is working itself out, another quite separate though equally chequered romance is going on, between Faulkland, Captain Absolute's friend, and Julia, Sir Anthony's ward. The leading parts are all very well done. Jane Manning gave an excellent account of the vain, empty-headed, romantic Lydia. She sighed as a love-sick maiden ought, pouted as a spoilt child should and used her eyes to their full soulful effect. In sum, Jane's was an excellent portrayal of self-imposed agony. Wendy Megeney as Julia had perhaps the most difficult female role. This part, as conceived in our production, gives no opportunities for humour and thus no encouragement from the audience in the form of appreciative laughter. The straight treatment demanded by the production is not at all easy to carry through, but Wendy was quite equal to the challenge and gave a very beautiful rendering of the part.

Moira Dunlop as Mrs. Malaprop gave an outstanding performance of the lady who wished to parade her 'nice derangement of epitaphs'. She gave us just the right degree of haughtiness when Mrs. Malaprop believed herself to be in charge of the situation and of injured pride when it became clear she had been outmanoeuvred. The audience was obviously quite delighted by Moira's performance.

Philip Dumville gave a magnificent performance as Sir Anthony. His sudden changes of mood from bullying to quiet mocking was always well under control and we must consider ourselves fortunate that he will be with us for a further two years. We are equally fortunate in having the services in future productions of Richard Avery who took the part of Captain Absolute. The character requires of the actor that he should be at one time an amorous lover, at another a dutiful son, at another a wily schemer; and by showing the right blend of self-assurance, resourcefulness and generosity of heart, Richard Avery acquitted himself well in the part. His well-modulated voice is a joy to listen to.

Jonathan Woolf gave a very good account of the lugubrious and suspicious Faulkland. For all the world as pessimistic as Eeyore, it was no fault of his that the part is rather over-written. After a couple of sessions of Faulkland's gloomy foreboding, the audience has had enough, but Sheridan gives them more. Alan Singer was most entertaining as the irresolute Acres, now strutting about the stage, preening himself on his new-found valour, now cringing in fear of unpleasant consequences to himself. Perhaps the purist would say that the country bumpkin act was a little overdone since Acres was after all a squire, but certainly the text encourages Alan Singer's interpretation. Anthony Cummings had some difficulty in overcoming his natural quietness as he sought to do justice to the part of the swash-buckling Irishman Sir Lucius O'Trigger. Despite this difficulty he succeeded in giving a competent performance and will have acquired in the process valuable experience for future productions. In congratulating the cast we should not forget the minor characters, all of whom without exception put up good performances. We must also thank the vast army of helpers who worked quietly behind the scenes and without whom no production could ever be staged. Chiefly, however, we owe a debt of gratitude to the producer, Mr. A. J. Tisdall, whose hard work, enthusiasm and expertise combined to give us a most diverting evening's entertainment.

D. Dixon

1972 School Magazine
With thanks to Martin Tett for the above (sadly, you'll have to settle for 2nd Prize, Martin)


School Fair (1962)


Sporting Memories


Foreword to the First Magazine (1956)


Photos of Staff


A Visit to the British Museum (1958-59)


The Rivals (1972)