The School for Scandal*** (Waterloo East Theatre, 8 May 2013)

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Coming in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, a revival of this richly comic satire on London’s18th Century chattering classes could hardly be more timely. Sheridan paints a picture of a society dominated by idle gossipers and hypocrites to whom nothing matters less than the truth, a group that could easily be seen as the equivalent of certain sections of the modern media. Unfortunately, opportunities to highlight and explore these parallels are largely missed in Zoe Ford’s rather conventional interpretation for Turn of the Wheel Productions. Inexplicably the evening begins with flashing disco lights and a Eurythmics track blaring out, but, apart from this and some other curious music choices at scene changes, there are no attempts to update the play from its original period. The actors appear in splendid costumes and wigs and only the sparsely decorated sets suggest that this is a modest production. Grace Fairburn, as Lady Sneerwell and Alicia Bennett, as Mrs Candour, make excellent Queen Bitches and Sebastian Aguirre is suitably loathsome as their cohort, Joseph Surface. Sadly, the actor playing the key role of Sir Peter Teazle needed to withdraw at a late stage; replacing him, Rob Maloney was reading from the script in some scenes, but he has managed to capture the essence of a character that displays exasperated rage when confronting his wife yet is always a kind and honest man, capable of exposing the antics of the gossips. Playing Lady Teazle, Tabitha Becker-Kahn is the evening’s biggest comic delight, excelling as a country girl who has married a much older man and becomes intent on social climbing, only to face rejection by the elite gossiping circle. Sheridan is disdainful of the scandalisers and firmly on the side of their victims. He condemns those who take the moral high ground, seeking to profit from it, and he forgives those who may be guilty of minor aberrations but remain fundamentally decent. The production, which is is bound to improve once it has fully recovered from its unfortunate setback, occasionally sparkles and rarely falls flat. Maybe it could have brought more that is new to Sheridan’s work, but, nonetheless, it is always a joy to see this delicious classic revived.

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