THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Tobacco Factory Theatre Raleigh Road Southville BS3 1TF To 9 May 2015.
Mon-Wed, Sat 7.30pm; Thu, Fri 8pm. Mat Sat & 23, 30 Apr 2.30pm.
Runs 3hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0117 902 0344.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 April.
Bright revival of Sheridan at the Tobacco Factory.
Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and their Artistic Director Andrew Hilton have acquired a strong reputation for perceptive, clear-headed approach to Shakespeare, Stoppard (last Year) and now Sheridan. Not for this company any comedy of mannerisms, with fluttering fans and eyelashes, or simpering smiles trying to manufacture humour. The manner of the 18th-centutry is there, but each character is freshly thought-through. There’s pain behind Julia Hills’ malicious Lady Sneerwell, a vacuum of self-awareness around Fiona Sheehan’s Mrs Candour.
And when, as would happen a century later in Oscar Wilde’s social comedies, the bon mot characters filter away, there’s a reality to the figures playing-out the central moral comedy. Paapa Essiedu doesn’t strive for the big comedy impact as Joseph Surface, containing the character’s insincerity within a quiet circumference that’s all the more calculating in its pretended probity. The production leaves Jack Wharrier’s Charles Surface to provide cheerful generosity in an open manner expressing his guileless good nature.
As the teachers and scholars of scandal reveal the tart taste beneath society’s sugared surfaces, there’s eventual reconciliation for the other central pair, the Teazles. Daisy Whalley’s young Lady Teazle expels herself from the scandal school after the severe shock of being exposed, while Christopher Bianchi, whose steady pace throughout has shown him discomfited with the ways of the world his wife inhabits, finds room for a new wisdom and reflection upon the risks of marrying a vivacious young woman.
Another Tobacco Factory regular, Alan Coveney, makes Rowley a firm voice for sense and not just a plot necessity of a character, while it’s joyous to see Benjamin Whitrow, whose timing and vocal quality as Crabtree contrasts the flamboyance of Byron Mondahl as his over-confident protégée Sir Benjamin Backbite.
Only the stage, for once, proves problematic, with the family portrait gallery reduced to one picture, despite the help of a strategically-placed interval, and the lack of a strategic place for the all-important screen which reveals the truth about Joseph and Lady Teazle. The impact’s blurred because there’s no focal point to place the screen on stage. Otherwise, the comedy holds-up all the way
Lady Sneerwell: Julia Hills.
Snake: Paul Currier.
Bridget: Charlie Smalley.
James/Sir Toby: Callum McIntyre.
Joseph Surface: Paapa Essiedu.
Maria: Hannah Lee.
Mrs Candour: Fiona Sheehan.
Crabtree: Benjamin Whitrow.
Sir Benjamin Backbite: Byron Mondahl.
Sir Peter Teazle: Christopher Bianchi.
Lady Teazle: Daisy Whalley.
Betty: Emma Jarvis.
Rowley: Alan Coveney.
Sir Oliver Surface: Chris Garner.
Trip: Joey Hickman.
Charles Surface: Jack Wharrier.
Credit: Craig Fuller.
Careless: Oliver Hoare.
William: Tom Manson.
Director: Andrew Hilton.
Designer/Costume: Emma Bailey.
Lighting: Matthew Graham.
Composer: Elizabeth Purnell.
Associate director/Edition : Dominic Power.
Assistant director: Hannah de Ville.