THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan lyrics by Jessica Swale and Laura Forrest-Hay.
Park Theatre (Park 200) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 7 July 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
then Theatre Royal Westgate Street Bury St Edmunds IP33 1QR.
Thu-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm.
TICKETS: 01284 769505.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 June.
Fast ride in a glittering scandal machine.
Red Handed Theatre, working with The Production Exchange and Park Theatre, present a comedy where, aptly, social villains end-up caught red-handed. From the fragmentary phrases accompanying people as they first leak anonymously on stage, building to an excited climax of gossip – and in the final scandal-song which ends in something less than a climax – the shallow excitement of being first with the schadenfreude is backdrop to malign, manipulative scandal strategies.
Just listening to the list of lives derailed by one of scandal’s scholars here underlines the impact behind the thoughtless chat of Buffy Davis’s Mrs Candour as she leaps on every new detail while asserting her discretion.
Coincidentally while this new Finsbury Park venue offers Jessica Swale’s production, London’s other recently-opened theatre, down the Victoria Line, the St James, has Jonathan Miller’s Northern Broadsides production of Rutherford and Son. It was Miller’s 1968 Nottingham Playhouse School for Scandal which ejected 18th-centruy coffee-pot elegance in Richard Sheridan’s comedy, placing the action among the underbelly of the upper-crust.
The curtain opened on a rouged Lady Sneerwell in her underwear (before such surface elegance over decay was a theatrical cliché), Snake standing centre-stage picking his nose. Post-interval, Charles Surface’s fellow-revellers were using both bottle and chamber-pot. Such sixties rejection of tradition is replaced with Swale’s self-confident cappuccino generation.
Morality disappears, as does age. Jessica Clark’s Maria takes a chance Sheridan doesn’t give her, finally injecting passion into her near-silent love. Less helpfully, the generation gap between the Teazles is eliminated. In the famous scene where Lady Teazle’s infidelity is discovered the all-important screen is too small, and Swale over-complicates Sheridan’s set-up (as many directors so the comparable scene in Twelfth Night). Yet there’s one magnificent moment, depending on the husband’s literal short-sightedness.
That, however is not necessarily a matter of age. But it’s a welcome still point in a production more happy when keeping society’s misery-go-round a-whirling.
Yet Tom Berish’s Joseph is all glittering surface, Russell Bentley a simpering Crabtree and Kirsty Besterman a forceful Lady Teazle, while Belinda Lang brings an authority which impacts resentment and plot within a smilingly composed exterior.
Lady Sneerwell: Belinda Lang.
Snake/Careless: Charlie Tighe.
Joseph Surface: Tom Berish.
Maria: Jessica Clark.
Mrs Candour: Buffy Davis.
Crabtree/Moses: Russell Bentley.
Sir Benjamin Backbite: Michael Bryher.
Sir Peter Teazle: Daniel Gosling.
Mrs Rowley: Rachel Atkins.
Charles Surface: Harry Kerr.
Lady Teazle: Kirsty Besterman.
Sir Oliver Surface: Timothy Speyer.
Director: Jessica Swale.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Composer/Musical Director: Laura Forrest-Hay.
Costume: Fi Russell.
Assistant director: Lois Jeary.
Assistant Musical director: Gemma Storr.