Review: The Rehearsal at Chichester Festival Theatre

Edward Bennett (Hero) and Jamie Glover (The Count) in The Rehearsal. Picture: Catherine Ashmore

Edward Bennett (Hero) and Jamie Glover (The Count) in The Rehearsal. Picture: Catherine Ashmore

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French dramatist Jean Anouilh may be best known for his take on Sophocles’ Oresteia, but he was a prolific playwright whose work has been a regular feature throughout Chichester Festival Theatre’s history.

It’s a wonder they’ve taken so long to get to The Rehearsal, one of his most acclaimed pieces.

The current production is directed by Jeremy Sams who allows his actors to follow the natural path of the piece. The count has invited his friends to perform a play at one of his famous parties, but when one drops out and he invites a young governess to fill one of the roles his life begins to unravel.

Jamie Glover, who shone in last years An Ideal Husband, is excellent once again in the central role here, but is eclipsed by the brutally honest performance from Edward Bennett as his best friend Hero, a perpetually drunk and melancholy rogue. Niamh Cusack as the countess holds her role well, while Katherine Kingsley dazzles as Hortensia, the count’s long time mistress. Gabrielle Dempsey wisely underplays Lucile (the governess), making her seem more human than those around her.

A series of fine performances don’t hide that this is an overlong piece with an obvious end point though.

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