A perfect scandal in pink - The Rugby Observer

A perfect scandal in pink

Ian Hughes 10th Jul, 2024 Updated: 10th Jul, 2024   0

PHONES went back on immediately the audience left the theatre and the tittle-tattle re-started.

The vast majority would have had only good things to say about the scandal-fest they had just witnessed in Tinuke Craig’s sharply focused and hugely enjoyable production of Sheridan’s comedy of manners. It may be a 250 year-old play, but in this social media age of 24/7 news, gossip and rumour it’s more topical than ever. From the town square of the 18th century to Tik Tok in the 21st century, there has always been an eager ear for the latest titbits.

Style-wise this production is very much in the pink, with designer Alex Lowde’s set, and many of the costumes, various vivid shades of. The audience could have been forgiven for thinking they were on the set of the recent Barbie movie.

And the all too often seen time-spanning mish-mash of costumes is replaced by a distinctly 18th century wardrobe with a modern twist – big sumptuous dresses and lavish frock coats and even bigger wigs. Think high gloss New Romantic 80’s pop video.




The scene is set from the start as Lady Sneerwell – the internet troll of her day – enrols the entire audience as pupils in her School of Scandal by noting it was love of gossip that had drawn them.

And so the scandalizing begins in this fast paced production which sees characters regularly arriving and departing from and to below stage, together with rolling texts of projected gossip as Lady Sneerwell’s henchman Snake conducts her scheming.


An inspired music score, directed by Ellie Verkerk, also keeps up the energy. Harpsichord features heavily alongside synth, drums and electric guitars to produce a soundtrack inspired by everyone from Bach to Blur.

The pace could have proved a problem with such a convoluted plot, but not here, where the name of place or particular plot is projected giant-size on stage, and characters appear briefly when being gossiped about so the audience is always clear who’s who.

As for the actual cast, there are some wonderful comic performances.

Siubhan Harrison’s Lady Sneerwell is reduced to crab walking owing to a preposterous dress, while the word ‘honest’ sticks in the throat of Tadeo Martinez’s slippery Snake. Stefan Adegbola’s Joseph and his ‘sentiments’ and John Leader’s Charles are both terrific as the Surface brothers.

Geoffrey Streatfeild makes a welcome return to the RSC stage with his deadpan Sir Peter Teazle, sparking well with spendthrift young wife Lady Teazle, played by Tara Tijani, and also with Will Johnson’s marvellous Sir Oliver Surface.

There’s also the OTT gossiping trio (Emily Houghton’s Mrs Candour) Patrick Walshe McBride’s Sir Benjamin Backbite, Jason Thorpe’s Crabtree) who could have stepped straight from the screen of Blackadder.

And now all is left is to post this review and catch up with the gossip about the vicar and Love Island contestant.

The School for Scandal runs until September 6. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for further details.

Ian Hughes

 

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