Follow Us on Twitter

The Rivals - Gemma Jones stars at the Arcola

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

TWO hundred and forty years after it was first performed, Arcola Theatre is presenting The Rivals in a new production directed by Selina Cadell. Starring Gemma Jones as Mrs Malaprop, it runs in Studio 1 from October 21 (previews from October 15) to November 15, 2014.

Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1775, The Rivals is possibly the best known and loved of all the Restoration Comedies.

When Town meets Country in the summer streets of Bath, Society begins to play. The stakes are Money, Reputation and Inheritance. Amidst frolic and deceit are secret assignations and disguises, resulting in duels, duplicities, misunderstandings and misalliances.

At the centre of it all is the much-admired Lydia Languish; while her Aunt, the infamous Mrs. Malaprop, adds gloriously to the confusion with her hilarious and nonsensical misuse of words.

Selina Cadell is best known for her work as a British stage actress, in a prolific career spanning three decades. Her recent stage credits include Alan Bennett’s People and The Habit of Art (National Theatre) and Sam Mendes’ production of The Cherry Orchard (Old Vic Theatre and on Broadway). On television, she starred as Miss Froy in BBC’s 2013 film drama The Lady Vanishes, and played Mrs Tishell in ITV’s Doc Martin.

Her work as a director includes The Way of the World (Northampton Royal & Derngate), The Importance of Being Ernest (Nottingham Playhouse) and The Diary of One Who Disappeared (Arcola Theatre’s Grimeborn Festival).

Speaking about The Rivals, Cadell said: “I do believe that an 18th Century Comedy can be fresh, sexy and relevant for a modern audience, and whilst this production will remain true to the 1775 setting, there will be some anachronistic modern touches. What is very exciting is to be doing this Style Comedy in the heart of Hackney”.

Gemma Jones is known for film roles including Bridget’s mother Pam in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Madam Pomfrey in the Harry Potter films, Mrs Dashwood alongside Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson in the Academy Award-winning Sense and Sensibility, and more recently, Helena alongside Anthony Hopkins in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. On television, she played Connie James in the BBC drama Spooks.

On stage, Jones appeared as Queen Margaret in Sam Mendes’ production of Richard III starring Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic Theatre.

The cast of The Rivals also includes Nick Le Prevost (as Sir Anthony Absolute), Ian Batchelor (Captain Jack Absolut), Adam Jackson-Smith (Faulkland), Justin Edwards (Bob Acres), Adrian McLoughlin (Sir Lucius O’Trigger/Thomas), Carl Prekopp (Fag/David), Jenny Rainsford (Lydia Languish), Justine Mitchell (Julia Melvill) and Hannah Stokely (Lucy).

The production has set design by Emma Bailey, costume design by Ros Ebbutt and lighting design by Tom Boucher.

Tickets: £18 (£14 concessions), £16 matinees (£12 concessions), £12 Previews, Pay What You Can Tuesdays. To book, call the box ofice on 020 7503 1646 or visit

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturdays at 3pm.

The Grimeborn Festival continues at the Arcola until September 7, 2014. Also at the Arcola: the 20th anniversary production of Philip Ridley’s contemporary classic Ghost From A Perfect Place starring Michael Feast and Sheila Reid (September 11 to October 11, 2014).