Want to discover what critics have had to say about Richard Bean and Oliver Chris’s take on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals ? We round up the reviews here….

(c)Brinkhoff Moegenburg

WhatsOnStage: **** “Although the pandemic delayed its premiere, Jack Absolute Flies Again proves the perfect tonic to the miserable few years we have been through. Those concerned that lightning couldn’t strike twice after the runaway success of Guvnors should rest easy; it’s a riot. So strap yourself in, and chocks away.”

British Theatre.com: ***** “Emily Bruns’s production is beautifully and sharply paced, and the design is glorious, projections staging battles above our heads in the Olivier. There’s a roof-rousing dance in Act Two, and then a change of tone, which I felt the company handled very well. Whilst it perhaps doesn’t give us the jitterbug dance finale we were anticipating; it does honour The Few.”

The Guardian: ** “The silliness and humour sometimes sparks but Sheridan’s razor sharp lines and social class critiques become mostly toothless in this transposition. The humour is, for the main, as over-familiar as the green pastures and rolling hills of the nicely compact set designed by Mark Thompson – we see the predictable punch-lines coming round the corner.”

Time Out: *** “has lots of fun characters but no truly great ones, no classic setpieces (though there’s a very fun dance-off sequence), and while director Emily Burns keeps things ticking over entertainingly, she’s undeniably far less experienced than Thea Sharrock, who was set to direct pre-pandemic. Lightweight comedies need heavyweight directors.”

Variety.com: “The show cannot deliver the same level of pure hysteria as “One Man, Two Guvnors,” not least because the plot doesn’t pivot around one knockout role. Instead, the authors have generously added delight by spreading the comedy gifts more widely. They also, as their unexpected ending touchingly shows, have given the production what “One Man, Two Guvnors” didn’t manage: true heart.”

Broadway World: ** “Comedies of manners used to be a satirical look at sophisticated society. This reworking of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals by Richard Bean and Oliver Chris is a pantomime, a patchy wartime farce stuck together with cheap glue and even cheaper jokes.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “It feels unlikely that Jack Absolute Flies Again will have the same success as One Man, Two Guvnors, but it appeals to audiences for similar reasons. Bean and Chris have fused a love of farce with smatterings of seaside postcard-style humour, and a nostalgic sense of a Britain long gone.”

Theatre Weekly: “One thing is for sure, Jack Absolute Flies Again is hilarious; proper laugh out loud, trying to suppress a snort kind of laughter.  Some of the lines are so outrageous, you’ll still be giggling at them well into the interval.  Most of the comedy is very clever, and extremely well-written, there are a few jokes that are bit too obvious or overly constructed but you’ll probably still laugh.”

The Stage: *** “Entertaining but relentlessly frothy transposition of Sheridan’s comedy to wartime Britain at the NT from writers Richard Bean and Oliver Chris.”

The Arts Desk: **** “If the play is guilty of trying too hard, and is a tad one-dimensional, it’s also fair to say that once it breaks through the clouds and we’ve taken our seat belts off, Jack Absolute Flies Again does settle into a veritable hoot. With a skilled and hugely likeable cast, it’s genuinely funny and charming, spectacularly, beautifully staged, and ultimately quite moving.”

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “Mark Thompson’s design illustrates the production’s sweet spot: a technicolour combination of comic book and live action, Englishness as an aesthetic and a myth. Jack Absolute is more content to cuddle up to that myth than to seriously challenge it, but as pure summer fizz, it goes down a treat.”

The Upcoming:**** “Jack Absolute Flies Again is funny. It’s set in the 1940s for some reason but it’s funny. It’s filled with charm and wit, easy to watch and easy to enjoy. It also happens to be at a theatre with air conditioning and where, during the interval, one can have a drink on a terrace overlooking the river, so it makes for a great summer evening.”

Evening Standard: **** “The way Bean and Chris lob anything they find funny into the mix is audacious, but the script is also deceptively finely tuned. This knowing mix of satire, filth, clowning, pastiche, wartime derring-do and romance absolutely hit my sweet spot. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but not even the hardest heart could entirely resist its machine-gun barrage of humour.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “an absolute joy of a production, a joyous reinvention of familiar material and under Emily Burns’ (The Comeback) direction, a masterclass in ensemble comedy work.”

Jack Absolute Flies continues to play at the National Theatre until the 3rd September.


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