by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 18 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat Sat & 16 June 2.15pm.
Audio-described 11 June 2.15pm.
Captioned 7 June.
Runs 3hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 May.

High energy captures a superficial world.
This play makes me want to pick my nose. Years ago, the curtain at Nottingham Playhouse strikingly rose on Lady Sneerwell’s home as her servant Snake was engaged in that activity. For director Jonathan Miller, this was the underbelly of the upper-crust.

In Deborah Warner’s Barbican/Holland Festival co-production, Sheridan displays a society where style’s overtaken substance, where reputations slip down easily, consumed by a consumer society: scandal and shopping in the city. The slaughter of reputations and the essaying of sententious opinions are trumpeted loudly amid the high-class carrier-bags, in a world where eager mouths and credulous minds work like local tabloids or Twitter.

Good sense and true judgment is excluded by age (John McEnery’s patient old Rowley), social inferiority (Warner’s production finds comparative sympathy for money-lender Moses, at a time when Jews were easy stage-meat) or attempting to swing with the trend (Cara Hogan’s Maria loaded down initially with retail therapy, snorting a line of coke and joining in the superficial sophistication around her).

It’s a high-glitz surface world, in fragments – Jeremy Herbert’s designs use 2D drawings for surfaces, with empty spaces between. Final lines often echo into the stratosphere, various “Egad”s and the like being taken up by a piercing soprano while flights of video images name names as they fly over the stage between scenes, free as the wind of gossip.

As with this mini-society, the production depends on maintaining speed and excitement. At times Warner, like Orsino with music, orders excess of it. Yet the major performances gear their pace to Sheridan’s language, John Shrapnel restraining his fury and expressions of delight when meeting his so-different sons, honest dissolute Charles (Leo Bill, nears-Tourette’s compulsive as king of his own sub-society) and devious Joseph (Aidan McArdle, smoothly black-garbed manipulator of the monde).

Alan Howard brings his vocal skill to curling intonations through classical sentences, creating a rich irony as the put-upon Sir Peter. Matilda Ziegler’s queen of scandal, long in robing as the play opens, and Gary Sefton as her servant Snake, worming his own way up in this world, add to the brightness of this scandalous society.

Lady Sneerwell: Matilda Ziegler.
Snake/Sir Harry: Gary Sefton.
Joseph Surface: Aidan McArdle.
Maria: Cara Horgan.
Mrs Candour: Vicki Pepperdine.
Crabtree: Stephen Kennedy.
Sir Benjamin Backbite: Harry Melling.
Sir Peter Teazle: Alan Howard.
Rowley: John McEnery.
Lady Teazle: Katherine Parkinson.
Sir Oliver Surface: John Shrapnel.
Moses: Adam Gillen.
Trip: Christopher Logan.
Charles Surface: Leo Bill.
Careless: Joseph Kloska.
Lady Sneerwell’s Servant: Anthony Mark Barrow.
Lady Teazle’s Maid: Laura Caldow.
Gentleman: Will Joseph Irvine.
Joseph’s Servant: Jonathan Delaney Tynan.
Sir Peter’s Servant: Miles Yekinni.

Director: Deborah Warner.
Designer: Jeremy Herbert.
Lighting: Jean Kalman.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Mel Mercier.
Video: Steven Williams.
Voice: Emma Woodvine.
Movement: Joyce Henderson.
Costume: Kandis Cook.
Assistant director: Sophie Motley.
Associate Lighting: Mike Gunning.

2011-05-21 10:19:55

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