"A rip-roaring pageant of caricatures"
by Theresa Roche for remotegoat on 27/06/13

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School's International Students' Course stokes up mischief, match-making and mayhem with this show. This play tells the story of Lydia Languish, who dreams of eloping with an impoverished suitor in a coach and six thus thwarting the more sensible arranged marriage with Sir Anthony's son, Captain Jack that her socially climbing aunt, Mrs Malaprop, is in the process of fixing for her with Sir Anthony Absolute. Sheridan's play is a deliberately riotous send up of late 18th century romanticism which the playwright despised.

Lydia, with all the impetuousness and fantasy of a girl steeped in trashy romantic novels, must marry a penniless rogue such as her secret lover, a young man called Beverley who sneaks in to visit her, so that they can suffer together in an artist's garret somewhere living on their love alone.

Lydia does not know that Captain Jack is pretending to be Beverley in order to win her love! Jack in turn does not know, when his father informs him he is to undergo an arranged marriage, that the lady is none other than his true love Lydia! Another layer to the play is the fact that Lydia's aunt is really a semi-literate person heavily involved in trying to make a match for herself with an Irish baronet, Sir Lucius - or so she thinks. Unknown to her and indeed to them all though, their love notes and aspirations are being wickedly manipulated by Mrs Malaprop's maid, Lucy, who is deceiving them all into thinking they are being courted by someone when in fact that person is not the person they believe to be their admirer at all!

So how did the students do? An obvious challenge to these students from America, Canada and Australia is the British accent. Overall they were very impressive with their English accents, although the transatlantic and Australian tones were evident at odd moments.

Lauren Saunders presents a vivacious Lucy, a cunning little minx who clearly revels in her mischief. Nathan Winkelstein, as Captain Jack Absolute, portrays a wonderful youthful bravado and is a fine comic actor. Matthew McFetridge is an actor with an enviable strong stage presence and fantastic vocal range and gave a super performance as the blustery but commanding, Sir Anthony. Shaelee Rooke, as Lydia Languish, does a very good scene of angry resentment at the denouement.

Michael Hinton, as Sir Lucius, plays the role as a very funny "stage Irish" and the rest of the cast all do well in their role of supporting the leads and they are a dishy bunch of good looking young men too!

The highlight of the show for me, though, was the lovely performance of Amy Reitsma as Mrs Malaprop. She is another actress with great presence on stage, has slick comic timing and she clearly won the hearts of the audience. The scenes featuring her and Matthew McFetridge are particularly strong.

On the whole, the show is very enjoyable, although towards the end of Act 1 it becomes a little tedious with the over-long scene as the men discuss the forthcoming duel. To be honest, it is not the best BOVTS production I have ever seen but it is still, nevertheless, a very pleasant show and what matters is that the audience, many of whom were the students' friends and family members, clearly relished it.

Finally, special mention needs to be given to designer Chris Gylee, who has produced a nifty set that so cunningly fuses a modern day spa setting with the 18th century & that unexpectedly, at the start of Act 2, suddenly opens out to reveal an external backdrop of rural Bath for the duel scene.

Director, Christopher Scott, should be very pleased with his students.

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