The School For Scandal
Past and present collide in Deborah Warner’s over-lively production of
Sheridan’s 1777 comic satire of gossip and scandal, The School For Scandal.
Human nature hasn’t
changed much in the intervening centuries – moneyed old men still marry much
younger wives, rumours of clandestine assignations still run rife, and
upper-class bachelors continue to roister away family fortunes.
So although the cast adopts predominantly period costume after putting on a
strutting, present day fashion show, the 18th century ladies sport designer
handbags and a mobile phone makes a telling appearance.
Some of these
anachronistic conceits work – as, for example, when the seemingly moral
Joseph Surface projects pornographic stills onto the folding screen. Moments
later, he uses it to conceal Katherine Parkinson’s Lady Teazle and her
Vivienne Westwood carrier bags.
But the styles do not always blend, with a comparatively unadorned set and
Brechtian captions at odds with the (admittedly very watchable) excesses of
Leo Bill’s agitated, intoxicated libertine Charles Surface who, to his
credit, turns out to have a sentimental side.
In an evening of excess, it’s left to the older actors – Alan Howard’s
walking-stick wielding Sir Peter Teazle (who, touchingly, eventually
discovers that his decades younger spouse does indeed care for him as well
as for his wealth) and John Shrapnel’s Sir Oliver Surface (going undercover
to decide which of his nephews deserves to inherit) – to remind us of the
more subtle aspects of Sheridan’s comedy of manners.
Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
020 7638 8891
Until June 18
£16.00 – £50.00
– Louise Kingsley