01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk
The Rivals, 15th March to 21st April
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan, adapted by Beth Flintoff. Bath 1775. Lydia Languish is passionately in love with a dashing but penniless soldier with whom she plans to elope. Mrs Malaprop, her guardian, commands she ‘illiterate him’ from her memory and marry the rich and handsome son of a friend who is ‘the very pineapple of politeness’. Little do they realise that both poor Beverley and the wealthy Captain Absolute are one and the same young man. Cue confusion, romance, misunderstanding and a twilight duel. Taking place over one hilarious day, this classic comedy of desire, intrigue and romantic delusion, bursts onto The Watermill stage. An energetic ensemble perform a fresh, funny and fast-moving new version in the round. See the reviews below.
Burke and Hare, 24th April to 5th May, and on tour (all at
East Garston Village Hall, 18th April
Aldworth Village Hall, 19th April
Pangbourne Village Hall, 11th May
Cold Ash Acland Memorial Hall, 16th May
Highclere Village Hall, 19th May
Bradfield Village Hall, 21st May
Hampstead Norreys Village Hall, 22nd May
The Morrell Room, Streatley, 24th May
Uffington Memorial Hall, 25th May
1828, Edinburgh. Two Williams, William Burke and William Hare, discover a money making scheme far more lucrative than hosting lodgers. The first rule of business? Supply and demand. In the leading city for medical research, there’s a huge demand for bodies and an inconveniently low number of deaths. The profitable solution? Murder, of course. As the infamous pair flourish in their new found careers, the more they murder, the less they care but for how long will they get away with it? In a new black comedy that is as hysterical as it is historical, three actors tell the true story of the prolific duo.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 10th May to 16th June
Four lovers escape the decorum of the royal courts, eluding tradition and etiquette on one fateful, intoxicating night in the Athenian woods. Secrets, love and mistaken identities collide with a fusion of rich and beautiful music inspired by the hedonistic soulful sounds of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. Hermia is to be married to Demetrius.But she actually loves Lysander and after the lovers runaway to marry in secret, pursued by Demetrius, who has been told by Helena of their plan, all respectability begins to unravel. Enter an enchanted world of dreams and passion, where the powerful spirits of a midsummer’s night will put a spell on you.
Sidney's Shed, 2nd June, 10:30
Maisie is on the run and thinks she’s found the perfect place - Sidney’s Shed. But this is no ordinary shed, and Sidney Waffles is no ordinary gardener… The potty flower-potter has made some unusual improvements to his allotment. Sidney has created the world’s first time travelling shed! Join Sidney and the bravest little girl in Windy-on-the-Hill on their time-travelling journey to dig up the past and weed out the bullies! Rhubarb Theatre present a brand-new family show for gardeners and adventurers of all ages - bursting with historical hilarity, songs, music and prize winning rhubarb! Sidney’s Shed is a fun and fast-paced adventure through time for all the family. Suitable for 5 to 105 years.
Jerusalem, 21st June to 21st July
By Jez Butterworth. England’s green and pleasant land. St George’s Day. It’s the day of the Flintlock Fair and the day Kennet and Avon Council want to see the back of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron for good. The new estate want the maverick local boy evicted, but Johnny has other plans. At his ramshackle caravan kingdom, the charismatic hellraiser entertains his band of ‘undesirable’ scallywags with outlandish tales, unbelievable antics and an ample supply of booze and drugs. Infamous for holding the most riotous parties this side of the Wiltshire border, Johnny is a hero to many but a villain to others. Pursued by the authorities, threatened by the local thug and reprimanded by his ex, Johnny is not a man to be beaten down. Inciting his own special brew of anarchy, Johnny fights against the hypocrisy of modern suburban life and embodies the spirit of England’s legendary giants of myth. A raucous, earthy contemporary classic, Jerusalem paints a rebellious alternative vision of the idyllic English countryside. Following enormous success in the West End and Broadway, Jez Butterworth’s startling, multi award-winning play is brought to life in its first major revival since its London premiere.
Sweet Charity, 26th July to 15th September
Charity Hope Valentine fantasises about three things in life: romance, luxury and escaping the questionable clientele of the Fandango Ballroom. Lovable, gullible and spirited, she longs to find a lover who can sweep her off her feet but guided by the ‘fickle finger of fate’, Charity is always handing over her heart (and her earnings) to the wrong man. There’s Charlie tattooed on her arm, movie star Vittorio Vidal and then there’s Oscar. But will any of them be her one true love? Charity’s romantic highs and lows entertain and dismay her fellow dancers but in trying to shake off the past, will she ever be able to live happily ever after?
With a hit score including Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now, Rhythm of Life and I’m a Brass Band, this iconic musical comedy is brought right up to date in a modern reimagining by Watermill Artistic Director Paul Hart and award-winning musical supervisor Sarah Travis.
Trial by Laughter, 20th September to 27th October
Following critical acclaim for The Wipers Times, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman return to The Watermill with the premiere of a new play inspired by extraordinary real-life events. William Hone, the forgotten hero of free speech, was a bookseller, publisher and satirist. In 1817, he stood trial for ‘impious blasphemy and seditious libel’. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. Worse than that he was funny by parodying religious texts. And worst of all, he was funny about the despotic government and the debauched monarchy. Along with his great ally, political cartoonist George Cruikshank, Hone sought vindication for his laughable offences and fought for freedom in one of the most remarkable legal cases of its time.
Jane Eyre, 29th October to 2nd November
By Charlotte Brontë. After enduring a childhood of cruelty and loneliness, orphan Jane Eyre takes a position as the governess at Thornfield Hall. But when love blossoms between Jane and her enigmatic employer Mr Rochester, a secret is discovered that forces her to choose between happiness and integrity, desire and conviction. Dark, passionate and political, Jane Eyre is a searing portrayal of a woman’s search for equality and freedom. Brontë’s classic novel is brought to life by three actors in a fast-paced, stripped back new adaptation.
Reviews of The Rivals
15th March to 21st April 2018
Review from Newbury Theatre.
When Sheridan wrote The Rivals in 1774, he wrapped it in a Prologue and Epilogue, written in rhyming couplets. Beth Flintoff, who adapted this version of the play, updated the Prologue and Epilogue with witty references to today’s world. As for the play itself, she has cut it down to just over two hours and amended the text to make it more understandable to modern audiences while keeping the spirit of the 18th century language.
We end up with eight main characters, but you’ll have to pay attention to understand who’s who.
Sir Anthony Absolute is father to Captain Jack Absolute (who is also masquerading as Ensign Beverley) and guardian of Julia, who is the cousin of Lydia Languish whose aunt and guardian is Mrs Malaprop. Lydia (a rich heiress) is in love with Beverley, believing him to be poor. Julia is in love with Mr Faulkland but their relationship is beset with doubts on both sides. Country gentleman Bob Acres is in love with Lydia, who finds him odious. Sir Lucius O’Trigger has a sort of social-media-type offline relationship with the non-existent Delia, thinking she is Lydia but she is actually Mrs Malaprop. And that’s just the start of Act 1. It gets more complicated.
The Rivals is a comedy of manners, but there are certainly elements of farce in it. As such, the pace of the action and dialogue needs to be fast, and apart from a few fluffs of words, it was.
Michael Thomas (last seen on the Watermill stage in Lettice and Lovage in 2012) is Sir Anthony: belligerent, temperamental and with the right degree of bluster. Ncuti Gatwa is Captain Jack and you can see why Lydia (Emma Denly) fell for him: he’s handsome, charming and with a ready smile, and as Lydia’s feelings change we can see it oh so clearly in her face.
Julia St John relishes the part of Mrs Malaprop – she sails blithely on, indifferent to her mistakes. It’s hard to keep up with them all, but I bet calamari wasn’t on the menu in 1774.
Charlotte Bate as Julia (also Prologue, Epilogue and Lucy) and James Mack as Faulkland are the infuriating will-they-won’t-they couple; you want to give them a good slap and tell them to get on with it.
Daniel Abelson and Christopher Logan have nice character parts as Bob Acres – pusillanimous in the dual duel (you need to see it) – and Sir Lucius.
Designer James Cotterill gives us a bare stage with just two chairs and some curtains. OK, not just ‘some curtains’: multiple floor to ceiling opulent satin-like curtains in shades of pink and purple, changing with each scene and, well, wow. Plus some sumptuous costumes and some surprising wigs.
How to sum up director Jonathan Humphreys’ production? The asides to get an audience reaction didn’t work the night I was there (they need a more lively audience) but Beth Flintoff’s clever adaptation gives the play a new lease of life supported by a strong group of actors.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Catch them if you can
Beth Flintoff's laugh-out-loud adaptation of Sheridan's comedy of manners
The Rivals, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until April 21
This tangled story of romance was Richard Brinsley Sheridan's first successful play, performed in 1775 and written because he was desperately in need of funds. Many adaptations were to follow, including a musical version in the 1930s and the latest by Beth Flintoff is a frothy, laugh-aloud showcase for the talents of the playwright and this excellent cast.
Sir Anthony Absolute (Michael Thomas) has come to Bath to arrange the marriage of his son, Captain Jack (Ncuti Gatwa), to Lydia (Emma Denly) who is addicted to romantic fiction and intends to marry for love rather than money. She falls for Beverley, a penniless soldier – or so she thinks – in reality the 'poor soldier' is wealthy Captain Jack in disguise. Gatwa's wonderfully expressive face as he worries about the difficulties arising from this situation, including the prospect of having to fight a duel with himself, is sheer delight.
Meanwhile, cousin Julia (Charlotte Bate) is in an on-off relationship with Faulkland (James Mack) who adores her, but continually puts imaginary obstacles in the way of their love to such an extent that she eventually will have nothing more to do with him.
Then there is the wonderful Mrs Malaprop, Lydia's autocratic and linguistically-challenged aunt (Julia St John) who speaks of her niece as being "as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile" and instructs her to "illiterate him [Beverley] from your memory". So many malapropisms superbly delivered and all hilarious – if you were quick enough to catch them.
Mrs Malaprop believes that Irish Sir Lucius (Christopher Logan) loves her and she has sent him notes signed 'Delia' However, he thinks they are from the beautiful Lydia and arrives to claim her. The tangled knot increases, added to by country bumpkin Bob (Daniel Abelson), another of Lydia's suitors whose efforts at romance are doomed to failure.
The backdrop to this complicated web sees the stage framed by magnificently-draped curtains which change in number depending upon in which withdrawing room the action is taking place.
The introductory verse, spoken by a smiling Charlotte Bate is not only welcoming, but has the effect of including the audience as part of the whole and we were instructed to forget everything – even that other tangled political situation beginning with B – and simply enjoy the evening. And we did. Very much.
Not to be missed.
There are reviews from The Stage ("an enjoyably light and modern affair... charismatic central performances enhance an enjoyable and contemporary production of Sheridan’s comedy" - ★★★★), the Henley Standard ("the Watermill’s adaptation wrings every ounce of delight out of the original text — with an absolutely stellar cast... it would be impossible to write a review of the whole cast’s performances without peppering it with superlatives"), Daily Info ("the lovers that head up the cast are exceedingly good... an enjoyable theatrical treat at the Watermill... where the play stands out is in a trio of very good performances which makes this a fun evening for all"), PocketSize Theatre ("the enthusiastic cast make it an enjoyable evening for a classic play that defined comical mistaken word use" - ★★★), TheSpyInTheStalls ("Watermill Theatre has a sparkling hit on its hands... a feast of high-blown cod grandiloquence is delivered with crisp authority by a talented cast" - ★★★★★).
There's an interesting article...
... by Tei Williams about the process in staging a Watermill production, from choosing the play through to the opening night. It's here.
Reviews in the Archive
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)