scandal trio

Picture: Robling Photography

The School for Scandal

Derby Theatre


A major new revival of this classic comedy, produced by Tilted Wig on the third stop of its nationwide tour.

Author Richard Sheridan is one of the most astonishing figures in British, and Anglo- Irish, dramatic history. Born in Dublin in 1751, but educated at Harow school, London. He became an MP for 32 years in three seats, the first of which, Stafford, he secured by bribery, became Treasurer to the Navy in a Whig government under PM Lord Grenville, fought two duels, almost dying during the second, and owned the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London which burned down in 1794.

Upon being seen drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said, “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside”.

A politician, orator, raconteur, drunk, gambler, bon viveur, libertine and adulterer, he believed in living the material he wrote about.

The School for Scandal was written almost 250 years ago. Director Seán Aydon updates the play by changing the setting, complete with period landline telephones, and stylish costumes, from 1777 to the 1950s.

Sarah Beaton’s 1950s set looks lush in salmon pink drapes, the costume design is lavish with beautiful dresses for the ladies and pin sharp jackets for the men, oozing period glamour.

Aydon frequently asks his cast to “strike a pose”, vogue like, for emphasis, skilfully delivered by Stephen Moynihan, the movement director, whose further role as intimacy director is unnecessary for Sir Peter and Lady Teazle. The title of the play could easily be borrowed for a comedy about Conservative Central office, Lydea Perkins bearing an uncanny resemblance to Carrie Johnson

I am a confirmed Sheridan fan, that enthusiasm has its origins in a production I saw of The Rivals fifty years ago, so I keenly awaited this production. His wit and badinage beguiled and enthralled then, would it do so now?

All the cast bar the excellent Joseph Marcell, as Sir Peter Teazle, double up on roles, eight actors play fifteen parts. The barrage of gossip, intrigue and tittle tattle means that the audience has to concentrate hard to remember who is who, and who has said what to who. Consequently, the first half is slightly slower than the second without dragging at all, as we adjust to the language, characters, back stories and multiple parts. Not once did I check my watch. The production, in two halves, runs for around two and a half hours including interval.

There are numerous sparkling performances, amongst them, Lydea Perkins as the profligate WAG Lady Teazle, wonderfully played by Lydea Perkins (also the backbiting Mrs Candour) and Emily Jane McNeill as the dirt -dishing Lady Sneerwell. Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy are amateurs compared to these two. Alex Phelps and Garmon Rhys excel as the louche brothers, as does Tony Timberlake as Sir Oliver, their wealthy uncle. Ayesha Griffiths is a gender changing delight as first, coy Maria, then laddish Weasel.

Although the enunciation and delivery is occasionally unnecessarily shouty for emphasis, nothing can dampen the effervescent wit and verve of the dialogue, nor the energy of the cast. Fifty years on the sharpness of a Sheridan script endures.

A youthful Lady Teazle chastises her elderly husband that if he had wanted authority over her; “You should have adopted, not, married me”. The waspish scene where she and her husband discuss the prospects for their marriage is the highlight of the evening and worth the admission money on its own.

Aydon has been brave and bold with this 1950s reboot. No-one should be deterred by the Georgian era dialogue, it is well delivered and fits surprisingly well in its new time era. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening which culminated in an unexpected vogue like dance routine rousing an already appreciative audience.

Continues until Sat 30th, and then on nationwide tour until 8th June 2024.

Gary Longden


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