Travels: London: Saturday 16th December 2000

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The Rivals

On this trip I was travelling from Derby to London St Pancras and the problems on the railways hampered my plans. The idea was to have a full day in the Barbican area, starting with a visit to the Museum of London to see the Chaucer and High Street Londinium exhibitions before they closed in January. However it was not to be.

I arrived at the Barbican centre about noon, too late to fit in a trip to the Museum. After some hunting, I found the level 3 Art Gallery cloakroom was the only one open and left my baggage there.

The Rivals

I had a reviving snack in the Waterside cafe before going to the Barbican Theatre to see Sheridan's The Rivals, performed by the RSC. [A couple of months later I discovered this is run by Digby Trout, who are opening The Refrectory restaurant at Southwark Cathedral.]

As with The Mikado, the set was minimalist, with shoulder-height boxes representing the elegant houses of Bath trundled about by the cast to suggest various settings. They housed a few items of props such as chairs. Above the stage a cubicle held a Quartet in elegant costumes playing appropriate music.

The pace never flagged and the comedy was handled to perfection by the talented cast, with plenty of flair. It was Wendy Craig's debut with the RSC, starring as Mrs Malaprop, and it was a triumph. Familiar faces from telly included Benjamin Whitrow as Sir Anthony Absolute and Robert Portal as Bob Acres.

It's gratifying that a play from 1775 can still delight. For some months I'd been hankering to see a Restoration comedy, there being so few performed these days. I count any of the great comedies between 1660 and about 1800 as qualifying. [In early 2001 Roy Porter's excellent book Enlightenment came out, which defines the (English) Enlightenment as that period.]

[Details for the record: I booked my ticket via 'phone and received it via post, which was a relief - I hate the uncertainty of having to pick tickets up in person. The performance lasted 13:45 - 17:00 with an interval at 15:15.]

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