THE Rain or Shine Theatre Company certainly lived up to it's name at Poulton House, near Cirencester on Saturday night as the heavens opened just after the interval and the audience's umbrellas went up. The cast played on undeterred and were rewarded twenty minutes later by fine weather for the rest of the evening.
It is a tribute to the professionalism of the cast that not word of The School for Scandal, Sheridan's satire on the foibles of 18th century smart society, was lost to the audience. It was a slick production with actors changing from one character to another in double quick time.
In the play Sheridan pillories the ‘prattling classes' of the time, who had nothing better to do than gossip about their acquaintances, with no regard for reputation or the truth. Lady Sneerwell’s scandalous college contains students like Lady Candour, Sir Benjamin Backbite, Crabtree, and the ubiquitous Snake. Into it are drawn Sir Peter Teazle and his dizzy young wife, his ward Maria, and the Surface brothers, Charles and Joseph, neither of whom are as they seem.
In spite of mistaken identity and downright character assassination, everything unravels in the end.
Goodness triumphs over gossip and the villains are exposed.
The company performed as a whole, whether in a main or a walk-on part, which is exactly as it should be. To name individual actors would be an insult.
Anyone who missed The School For Scandal can see it at Llanthony Secunda Priory Gloucester on July 27, at Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton-in-Marsh on August 3 or at Keynes Country Park on August 18.
Di Alexander – Wilts. & Glos. Standard
HUMOUR is the main ingredient of Richard Sheridan’s 18th century classic The School for Scandal.
And it was just as well the audience had something to smile about as the rain came down during Friday’s performance in the gardens of Eyam Hall.
The production was staged by the aptly named Rain or Shine Theatre Company as part of their nationwide tour.
The nine-strong Gloucester-based troupe demonstrated their versatility and comic timing as they tackled the 21 parts with relish — making no concession to the weather apart from the occasional use of a see-through umbrella. This satire on London’s high society invites the audience to join Lady Sneerwell and her circle of unashamed gossips as they weave a tangled web of intrigue.
At times it resembled a Brian Rix farce, particularly in one scene where two characters have to find a hiding place to being caught in an embarrassing situation — one behind a screen and one in a cupboard. Surprise, surprise ... their efforts prove in vain.
The characters have wonderfully descriptive names such as Mrs Candour, Sir Benjamin Backbite and Blockhead while three women are known simply as ‘ladies of negotiable virtue’.
Throw in some audience participation, a few topical references to current TV programmes and you can see why the rain failed to dampen anyone’s spirits at Eyam Hall.
Buxton Cricket Ground proved to be a truly suitable venue for this outdoor performance of one of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s finest plays. The backdrop of Solomon’s Temple added an aura of magnificence to this eighteenth century romp. The weather proved to be a mixed blessing as plagues of midges took advantage of perhaps the only dry night of the Festival Fringe.
The audience, old and young alike, laughed uproariously as principled characters (Carole Carpenter and Brian Knight) tempted their scandalous counterparts towards a virtuous conclusion. Audience interaction was a significant feature of this production as Charles Surface (James Reynard) made an auction of unsuspecting spectators.
Lady Sneerwell and Mrs Candour (Jayne Lloyd and Nansi Hywell-Davies) provided laughs aplenty with the slanderous tales and hypocritical speech. Some of the more slapstick elements of this comedy were afforded by Sir and Lady Teazle (David Middleton and Natasha Hall) with their games of hide and seek and farcical bickering.
Joseph Surface (Rupert Mason) made an excellent baddie as his conduct led to increasingly ridiculous and altogether hilarious escapades. His devious activities were only complemented by the dopey servant Blockhead (Pippa Meekings).
All in all an excellent performance – I look forward to next year’s!
Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, performed by the Rain or Shine Theatre Company, dealt with exactly that on a late summer evening in the imaginatively planned secret gardens of the Old Church House in Wantage, Oxfordshire. Punters with picnics were appropriately prepared for precipitation, which fortunately only appeared briefly towards the end of this fun-laden and pacey production. A rainbow greeted the prologue.
The School for Scandal has always been one of the more accessible comedies of manners. Their option to explore just the lighter side of the play is valid in such an open and social setting - perhaps leaving the darker underbelly to gloomier auditoria.
This post-Restoration romp was sparingly filled with contemporary gags - none offensive enough to have Sheridan spinning in his shroud but it seemed to help increase intimacy with the audience.
The acting was of a high standard with no weak links - experience and expertise shining out particularly in the performances of David Middleton and Brian Knight. I was intrigued with the pain of Jayne Lloyd’s Lady Sneerwell - I wanted a prequel to the play to find out what had set her on her path. Imaginative doubling and cross-dressing throughout - Nansi Hywel-Davies and Carole Carpenter showing off their versatility. A lovable Lady Teazle from Natasha Hall and a suitably scheming Joseph Surface from Rupert Mason, particularly effective in his demise. Finally, a round of applause to James Reynard for our hero Charles Surface and the fine foppery of Sir Benjamin Backbite, as well as directing this hugely enjoyable show, taking us back to days long-gone of strolling players on the village green. No scandal to report, far from it - simply smiling satisfaction. Next year they tackle Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer - looking forward to it.
And finally.....Comments on The School For Scandal from our mailbag …
|"Your company exudes a wonderful enthusiasm and sense of humour which is certainly never dampened by a drop of rain!"|
|"Thank you for giving us such a first class show…the clarity of your speech was remarkable"|
|"A very enjoyable evening."|
|"We thoroughly enjoyed the performance."|
|"Just a note to thank you and the company for a delightful and entertaining evening."|
|"Whichever way the wind blew, all the words could be heard clearly, and we were transported back to the 18th century and almost felt we were there to witness the satire and fun."|
|"My husband and I enjoyed a wonderfully entertaining evening at Lodge Park – such fun and enthusiasm imparted by the actors…"|
|"You transported us back in time for a truly magical evening … we wait in anticipation for next years production."|
|"Many congratulations on a wonderful show – a very attractive and talented cast, and we enjoyed it tremendously. S for S was one of the highlights of our holiday."|
|"Thank you so much for a wonderful evening last Saturday… we certainly hope to come back next year – Rain or Shine – we would sit out and watch you!"|
|"I commend you for supporting the tradition of touring outdoor theatre and congratulate you for remarkably spirited & fresh performances from all concerned – brilliant cast, great direction, and excellent characters. All my party had a most enjoyable and memorable evening. We look forward to seeing future performances."|
|"School For Scandal at Lamport was fabulous. We brought friends from Australia and Ireland, and they loved it as well."|