Gabrielle Drake and Kate O'Mara star in a new production of the classic Restoration comedy The Rivals, which kicks off a seven-week UK tour today, 19 August 2002, following its opening earlier this month at the Theatre Royal Windsor.

Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1775, The Rivals features one of English theatre's most famous comic characters, Mrs Malaprop, whose mangling of the dictionary prompted its own entry. Mrs Malaprop's niece, the rich and beautiful Lydia Languish, is in love and wants to marry the penniless Ensign Beverley, but her outraged aunt demands that Lydia marry the eligible and dashing Captain Absolute instead in a tangle of romance, hypocrisy and mistaken identity.

In the British Actors Theatre Company (BATCO) production, Drake stars as Mrs Malaprop. Her recent theatre credits include Loot, Ghost Train Tattoo, Lady Windermere's Fan, The White Devil, An Absolute Turkey and Present Laughter, while amongst her television credits are Peak Practice, Crossroads and The Brothers.

The Rivals reunites Drake with her Brothers' co-star O'Mara (pictured), who is artistic director of BATCO and plays the manipulative maid Lucy in the new production. O'Mara is best-known for her TV roles in Dynasty, Howard's Way and Bad Girls. Her many stage credits include My Cousin Rachel, An Ideal Husband, On Approval, Kiss Me Kate, The Relapse and the just-completed extended national tour of A Woman of No Importance.

Drake and O'Mara are joined in the cast by Michael Jayston (as Sir Anthony Absolute), Arthur Bostrum (Sir Lucius O'Trigger), Maria Miles and Stash Kirkbride. The Rivals is directed by Knight Mantell and designed by Dickon O'Mara.

Following Windsor, it visits Aberdeen, Inverness, Bradford, Birmingham, Cambridge, Guildford and Norwich.

- by Terri Paddock