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REVIEW: ‘Immaculate performances’ in The School for Scandal at Cambridge Arts Theatre

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13

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This modern dress (well 1950s) version of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, first presented in 1777, is a very colourful show with his exquisite lines enunciated nicely and costumes and set extremely pleasing on the eye.

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

With the women in baby pink, midnight blue and emerald green dresses and the men in orange, tweed, and bright green jackets, they are set against satin curtains of various shades of rose. It looks gorgeous.

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The play is all about hypocrisy and the sheer bliss of creating gossip. As someone says: “Very trifling things give rise to the most ingenious tales.”

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

There are clues in the character’s names: Lady Sneerwell, Benjamin Biteback, Snake (dressed like a gutter journalist in a raincoat) Weasel (the broker) Joseph Surface (and his brother Charles) and the central characters Lord and Lady Teazle whose main pleasure is to torment each other.

Lord Teazle, once an elderly bachelor, has married a very young woman of fashion and now regrets it. Asked if he is happy he replies: “What a question to ask a married man.”

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

His girlish wife taunts him that she decided to wed the first rich man who asked her so she could spend his money on fashion and that is what she will do. Lord Teazle believes his wife is having an affair.

She isn’t but she decides if that’s what he thinks, then she might as well and starts a flirtation with Joseph Surface.

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

Joseph, meanwhile, though he pretends to be interested in Lady Teazle is actually entranced with Sir Peter’s ward young Maria, who in turn is in love with Joseph’s impoverished brother Charles.

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Charles returns her affections but is stoney broke so he can’t declare himself until he has made some money.

Along comes Joseph and Charles’s rich uncle, not seen for years, back from overseas, who pretends to be a stranger and offers to buy the family portraits from Charles – the ancestors in oils.

With Weasel as a broker and encouraged by a character called Careless, Charles happily sells them off outraging his uncle.

Confused – one might be. But the performances are immaculate. Apart from Joseph Marcel (best known as Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) who is on stage a lot of the time as a masterful Lord Teazle, each of the cast plays two contrasting parts.

All of them have a great time and so do we.

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

There is a lot of opportunity for athletics and gestures. At one point a screen is slid on from one side of the stage and a wooden cabinet from the other so that Lord and Lady Teazle can each hide suddenly from each other.

All is resolved at the end and the show ends with a dance. It’s a clever piece with many expressed sentiments still highly valid. When Charles sells off two family portraits of MPs he says glibly: “That’s the first time that members of Parliament have ever been bought or sold.”

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring

Presented by Tilted Wig and directed by Sean Aydon this is a most engaging night at the theatre.

The School for Scandal is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 13 then touring. It is at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton from May 21 to 25.

 

 

 

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