Baron Productions pick The Rivals for winter laughs in Pickering and York

Dave Parkinson’s Sir Lucius O’Trigger gives Paul Toy’s Bob Acres a duelling lesson for Baron Productions’ The Rivals

YORK company Baron Productions are to stage Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s Georgian comedy of manners, The Rivals, next month.

Premiered at Covent Garden Theatre, London, in January 1775, its latest York production is being directed by Paul Toy, who also will play bombastic rival suitor Bob Acres in 7.30pm performances at the Quaker Meeting House, Pickering, on December 7 and St Mary’s Church, Bishophill Junior, York, from December 12 to 14.

Company founder Daniel Wilmot says: “The story of Captain Jack Absolute’s clandestine courtship of the cynical, yet romantic, Lydia Languish, under the noses of their respective guardians, blustering Sir Anthony Absolute and hilarious Mrs Malaprop, is one that has made me smile from the first time I read it.

Baron Productions’ poster for next month’s production of The Rivals

“Given that it’s in keeping with our company’s tradition of theatre with a ‘thoroughly dashing edge’ – period settings, witty dialogue, lush costumes, occasional duelling, sometimes even in character – it seemed the perfect choice to bring a laugh or two to the winter months after our darker production of Hamlet this summer.”

Wilmot formed Baron Productions in 2015 to produce and direct the swashbuckling pirate romp Crossed Swords, since when they have performed Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray in 2016, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in 2017 and a Yorkshire tour of Shakespeare’s Hamlet this year.

“The choice of The Rivals is a poignant one for me as well,” says Wilmot. “I did the show back in 2012 as a rehearsed reading at the York Theatre Royal Studio, under the direction of Edward Pearce, and lovely Ruth Ford was in the cast as well, playing Mrs Malaprop of course.

Touching moment: Meg Davies as Julia and Daniel Wilmot as Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals

“Neither of them is still with us. I have a lot of happy memories of working with them, so aside from liking the show, I wanted to do a fully-fledged version dedicated to them and their memories.”

Toy’s cast features Steve Mawson as the domineering Sir Anthony Absolute; Margaret Davey as Mrs Malaprop; Daniel Wilmot as Captain Jack Absolute; Raffy Parker as Lydia Languish and Dave Parkinson as the argumentative Irish baronet Sir Lucius O’Trigger.

Fired up: Molly Ridley’s David panics as Paul Toy’s Bob Acres prepares his pistols in The Rivals

Tyler Cooke will play the hapless lovelorn Faulkland; Meg Davies, his long-suffering partner Julia; Zoe Glossop, pompous butler Fag; Molly Ridley, Acres’ terrified servant David, and Amy Fincham, conniving housemaid Lucy.  

Toy has set the piece at the turn of the 19th century. “This allows for lots of dashing Poldark-esque costumes, the occasional wig, and a healthy dose of swaggering and swashbuckling,” says Wilmot. “He’s also promised a little singing as well.” 

Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, under 18s £5, at or on the door from 7pm each night.

Charles Hutchinson