Blackbird Theatre Celebrates a Decade of Classics with New Production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s Wickedly Witty
– The Rivals –
10th Anniversary Performance Features All-Star Cast of Vancouver Classical Actors
Blackbird Theatre dashes into its 10th anniversary with a wickedly witty, joyfully irreverent production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals from Dec. 28, 2015 to Jan. 23, 2016 at The Cultch. Directed by Jessie-Award winning Johnna Wright, the comic masterpiece of love, pride, and other foibles will shift its timeless tale of mistaken identity and overwrought romance from an 18th century setting to ‘Downton Abbey’-era Edwardian England.
“The first review of Sheridan’s The Rivals declared the work would “stand foremost in the list of modern comedies,’” explains John Wright, Artistic Director of Blackbird Theatre. “Now, it’s true that Sheridan himself wrote this review under a pseudonym (he was a rather bold and cheeky fellow), but that didn’t stop the claim from being prophetic. Of the many comedies of manners penned in the Restoration, The Rivals remains one of the most highly celebrated, studied, and performed works. It’s a timeless satire that lampoons what fools love makes of us all.”
The Rivals’ whirlwind plot revolves around the bookishly romantic Lydia Languish, an ingénue who adores her lover when she thinks he’s a poor ensign, but is appalled when he turns out to be a well-connected Captain. Adding to complication, Lydia finds herself beset on all sides by a retinue of eccentric, bumbling suitors and stymied at every turn by her over-bearing, formidable, and linguistically-challenged aunt, Mrs. Malaprop. Lydia’s courtship is set in counterpoint by the neurotic and self-torturing Faulkland, who is forever testing the fidelity of his beloved Julia, much to her exasperation. As confusion and tensions mount, a duel to someone’s death seems only inevitable.
The play received its premiere at London’s Covent Garden in 1775 when Sheridan was only 24 years of age. The work, replete with daft duels, furious fathers, and tumultuous wooing, drew from a chapter in Sheridan’s own life when, not yet 21 years of age, he eloped with a wealthy and betrothed young woman to France – ultimately leading to a candlelight duel in a London tavern. Rumours of the antics would earn Sheridan a certain notoriety, which he cashed in on by incorporating elements of his own, personal misadventures into The Rivals.
One of the play’s most curious and lasting legacies is the introduction of the term ‘malapropism’ to the English language. The word stems from the character of Mrs. Malaprop, who constantly mixes words with declarations such as, “he is the very pine-apple of politeness!” or “she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”
The stellar cast features Gabrielle Rose as the celebrated Mrs. Malaprop, Scott Bellis, Duncan Fraser, Martin Happer, Luisa Jojic, Emma Slipp, Kirk Smith, John Emmet Tracy, and Jenny Wasko-Paterson (See cast list at end of release).
The production is directed by Johnna Wright (Recipient of two Outstanding Direction Jessies for Blackbird Theatre’s The Triumph of Love and Bard on the Beach’s The Merry Wives of Windsor). The Rivals features lighting design by Alan Brodie, set design by David Roberts, and costume design by Sheila White.
About Blackbird Theatre Company (blackbirdtheatre.ca)
A classic play is a great house in which many people may live. It is also a human fable that time does not invalidate. Established in 2005, Blackbird Theatre Company draws its inspiration from the great playwrights of the ancient and modern worlds, and from the community in which we live.
Blackbird’s plays are chosen for the brilliance of their dramatic and comedic achievements as well as their relevance to contemporary life. Classic plays and production excellence have brought the company to prominence throughout the Lower Mainland theatre community.
Blackbird Theatre presents THE RIVALS
December 28, 2015 to January 23, 2016
Previews: Dec 28 & 29 at 8pm
Opening Night: Dec 30 at 8pm
Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm
2pm Matinees: Jan. 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23
Artist Talkbacks: Jan. 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23
Single Ticket Prices:
Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch)
Vancouver, BC V5L 2H6
604.251.1363 or thecultch.com/tickets
Sir Anthony Absolute:
John Emmet Tracy