Sir Teazle and his wifeRobling Photography with permission for Varsity

Nothing is left subtle in this adaptation of Sheridan’s School for Scandal. That in itself is not a problem; the script demands an exaggeration that is perhaps rather tricky to pull off without creating an aura of sheer ridiculousness. And the cast certainly do struggle in that respect, especially in the first half. It drowns the genuine comedy in the script, muffles the actors talent beyond it, and wears really rather thin on the audience.

“The script demands an exaggeration that is perhaps rather tricky to pull off without creating an aura of sheer ridiculousness”

The first scene promises a potential that the rest of the production fails to live up to. Sir Peter Teazle (played by Joseph Marcell) is the absolute highlight of the performance - as he deplores his marriage to a much younger wife, who is likewise much more inclined to a spell of social climbing, the audience watches with glee. His mannerisms are perfection, and his performance appears both genuine and genuinely funny. The same can’t be said for his young wife. Lady Teazle (Lydia Perkins) is something of a one trick pony. She has, on one hand, completely mastered her peacock-like strut as she saunters across the stage, and is entirely proficient in her shrill tone and gently swaying hips. On the other, she has not yet grasped all of her lines. We’re left with a couple of blunders, and a couple of moments where we must be exceptionally grateful for Lord Teazle’s quick thinking when he steps in to save us all from a painful pause. The tardy line learning, however, leaves her character's one-dimensionality entirely exposed to criticism.

“Sir Peter’s performance appears both genuine and genuinely funny”

While Ayesha Griffiths in her performance as Maria has certainly learnt her lines, her character has been directed with an unfortunately similar flatness. Her performance as Mr Weasel proves her capacity for the true comedy of manners style, so it is a pity that the direction of her primary role is so fruitless. Her interactions with Lady Sneerwell (played by Emily-Jane McNeil) subject the audience to a shrill monotony that simply becomes boring.

The stage is garbed with some of the most unusual lighting I’ve ever seen, lighting up almost the whole auditorium, which is unfortunate when towards the end of the first half, quite a few members of the audience were beginning to look ever so slightly bored. As the lights dimmer after the interval, I noticed a few empty seats that were certainly occupied before everyone dashed off. I presumed they’d gone to the bar, but it seems they’d gone home! It was a pity, as the second half of the production was unbelievably more promising than the first.

“The second half of the production was unbelievably more promising than the first”

As the plot progresses, the members of the cast who had proved disappointing thus far came into their own. It’s tricky to believe that the two halves have been directed by the same person, or that the characters are played by actors with the same training. Chaotic farce is paired with interesting direction, asides, and a plethora of sound effects that keep the audience engaged.


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Sheridan’s script is finally done justice as the play barrels towards its conclusion. I normally care very little for a playwright’s intentions when a production such as The School for Scandal is getting on for 150 years old, and is in need of a lick of paint to be engaging to a modern audience. As the lights come up, the audience are left in good spirits, but there is little recompense for the performances offered in the first half. I feel Sheridan would have been performing somersaults in his grave.