Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Scandal and sensibility

It was an age of pantaloons and powdered periwigs, macaronis and mantuas, so what has Sheridan's The School for Scandal to offer in the modern world?
 SATTF's clever, funny, production for Tobacco Factory Theatres picks out a link with the slanderous sensationalism of our twittering society from the opening moments, with a smart-phone selfie in the introduction to this pantomime of manners which sees reputations shredded over teacups for the entertainment of trivial minds and the sanctimonious are secretly scurrilous self-seeking hypocrites. As well as glints of modernity, like the payday loan interest rates, the prologue and epilogue underline the Shakespearean dramatic tradition, with themes of sibling subterfuge and characters hiding their true identity.
It's a moral farce brimming with louder-than-life personalities, and a strong cast jostles with stand-out performances: Lord and Lady Teazle (Christopher Bianchi and Daisy Whalley), Sir Oliver and his reprobate nephew (Chris Garner and Jack Wharrier), Byron Mondahl in 'ugly sister' persona as a dandy Benjamin Backbite, and Fiona Sheehan's delightful Mrs Candour.
Terrific direction from Andrew Hilton maxes the in-the-round staging  ~ as when the audience become the paintings when Charles cheerfully sells his ancestors to his disguised Uncle Oliver. Once the establishing scenes are done, the play becomes a succession of highlight scenes: the young reprobates' Riot Club style party, the Teazles having a major domestic behind brittle smiles, and the trio of gossips spinning a catherine wheel of fabricated revelations around an attempted seduction made farcically public. Emma Bailey's costumes are gorgeous and the minimalist set keeps action fast-paced. Another don't-miss goodie from Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory.  

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