Jack Absolute Flies Again has opened at the National Theatre in London.
This riotous new version of Sheridan’s The Rivals is co-written by Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors) and Oliver Chris (Emma) and started performances in the Olivier Theatre on 2 July 2022.
The cast of this World War Two-set comedy includes Caroline Quentin (Jonathan Creek), Peter Forbes (Follies), Natalie Simpson (Three Sisters), Laurie Davidson (Cats), Kelvin Fletcher Emmerdale) and Kerry Howard (Him & Her). Also starring are James Corrigan, Theo Cowan, Shailan Gohil, Millie Hikasa, George Kemp, Joanne McGuinness, Jordan Metcalfe, Akshay Sharan, Tim Steed, Geoffrey Towers, Shona White and Helena Wilson.
Jack Absolute Flies Again is running until 3 September 2022 at the National Theatre.
Photos by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
Jack Absolute Flies Again reviews
"Richard Bean and Oliver Chris’s WW2-set reworking of ‘The Rivals’ is very funny but not a lot more"
"‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ is a very funny play. But it’s not an especially great one, or to be fairer, its greatness is definitely not in proportion to how funny it is. It’s relentlessly chucklesome, but almost aggressively lacking in wider purpose..."
"Uproarious mix of filth, derring-do and romance"
"Updating Sheridan’s The Rivals to the Second World War brings the same ungoverned humour as Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors"
"Sheridan’s absurd web of deceptions and misunderstandings is here augmented by CGI ariel dogfights, a dazzling all-cast jitterbug number and Mrs Malaprop doing the splits while playing the ukulele. Alongside the laddish jokes and slapstick there’s a sly gag about the Bechdel test, which judges a drama’s feminist credentials. Designer Mark Thompson supplies a witty set of dolls’ house rooms unfolding on an English lawn."
"A cheerful farce at the National Theatre"
"New knockabout comedy updates Sheridan’s The Rivals to a second world war setting"
"The world of Jack Absolute is cheerfully naive, bordering on puerile: here, the way to find out if you’re in love with a girl is to ask yourself if you’d use her poo as toothpaste. So that makes its eventual lurch into tragedy all the more surprising. It doesn’t quite work, because it’s easier to laugh than to cry over these thinly drawn characters. But it’s an interesting note of darkness in a play that otherwise sticks to safer, sunnier hues."
"A Knockout New Comedy by the Writer of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’"
"As his stakes rise, so does the already high level of ridiculousness powered by line-by-line laughs and the fiercely well-timed comedy of the entire company, not least Quentin’s much built-up role with ever-increasing levels of silly smut in her malapropisms. (Admiring her garden, she confuses clematis and clitoris.) And then there’s magnificently stuffed-shirted Peter Forbes — “Be quiet! I’m shouting!” — as Major General Sir Anthony Absolute who, awards judges take note, pulls off the astounding trick of being absolutely and perfectly furious while being astonishingly truthful."
"Like most theaters recovering from COVID, the National has been in serious need of a knockout hit. They now have one."
"Strives to be heartfelt but doesn't stick the landing"
"Entertaining but relentlessly frothy transposition of Sheridan’s comedy to wartime Britain"
"Thanks to physical comedy director Toby Park, from Spymonkey, and choreographer Lizzi Gee, there’s some nice physical business including an energetic dance sequence that Quentin steals with the aid of a ukulele. Mark Thompson’s colourful design, which mixes projections with a fold-out country house and a Nissen hut, nods towards panto but also allows for some tense scenes of the pilots on missions, the camera trained on their faces, Top Gun-style (video design by Jeff Sugg). This brings home the fact that the prospect of death was very present in their lives – the knowledge that they might not come back alive, or might be left horribly injured, is always there in the background and accounts, at least in part, for all the energetic bed-hopping, this hunger for each other."
"The National has a comic hit on its hands"
"Kerry Howard is superb as her sharp-tongued maid, Lucy, who indulges in some cynical asides with the audience. (The fourth wall comes crashing down from the start.) Jordan Metcalfe is excellent as the sexually repressed Roy Faulkland."
"The two aerial combat interludes induce an abrupt change in emotional tone that could easily have stalled the play. Quentin and the rest of the first-rate cast keep it aloft. Tally ho."
"Light-hearted levity, rather than world-conquering phenomenon"
"The result is a qualified triumph of an evening, one that pitches from the heights of comic delight – ‘‘What’s going to happen in England after we’ve won this war?’ ‘Bunting. Bunting everywhere’’ – to the lows of relentless and tiresome nudge-nudge-wink-wink."
"Humorous with unerring accuracy"
"Aiming for a target whose coordinates lie somewhere between farce, panto and social satire, Richard Bean's latest comedy delivers his humorous payload with unerring accuracy."
"Director Emily Burns keeps the production airborne and knows when to decelerate Bean’s comic mayhem to allow breathing space."
"NT’s Jack Absolute Flies Again is an amusing update of The Rivals"
"What we were expecting was a rollicking comedy which would fire on all cylinders, but unfortunately it never quite gets there. That’s not to say it isn’t funny – it’s constantly mildly amusing – but it’s light on big laughs, and there’s little else going on here to recommend. Only one moment caught us genuinely off-guard, and we weren’t emotionally invested enough in the characters involved to really care about this unexpected change in direction. For the remaining two-and-a-half hours of the show, it’s entirely predictable and really quite pedestrian."
"Mrs Malaprop’s a loose cannon in Richard Bean’s Battle of Britain take on Sheridan"
"Quentin, shiny as a creature on a carousel, brings admirable zip to the flinging-herself-around physical comedy (which requires her to do the splits while playing the ukulele) and to the verbal slips – “flatulence will get you everywhere” – that define her character. The trouble is that Bean so overeggs her speech with errors that the lines can scarcely breathe."
"The drama does not have the freewheeling expansiveness of his other adaptation, One Man, Two Guvnors, nor the bravura savagery of his England People Very Nice. The jokes are there, all right – but it’s as if they’re coming in to land in an adjacent room."
"This loveable show should revive the battered box office at the National Theatre"
"... this is an enormously loveable show. The reason it works so well is not just the panache of the writing, acting and animated graphics of Spitfire dogfights. It is the mix of laughter and tears, its ability to peel away from formation comedy and bare an underbelly of something more vulnerable."
"Emily Burns’s production maintains such a pace that some jokes are lost in the gallop."
"The Guvnor's back with a bawdy romp"
"Richard Bean is back at the National Theatre with a snortingly good, crowd-pleasing comedy to rival his One Man, Two Guvnors, which launched James Corden as a global phenomenon."
"The real star, though, is perhaps Caroline Quentin as voluptuous dowager Mrs Malaprop who owns the ‘country piles’ which has been requisitioned as an airfield. Delivering her solecisms with pride and fortitude, she declares herself ‘overcome with emulsion’ and laments that since her husband died she has ‘become a window’."