RICHARD Brinsley Sheridan’s immortal comedy of fake news, The School for Scandal, is the apposite choice for Swan Theatre Company spring production, directed by Alan Morris and sold out for its run from 6th to 11th May.
Set in the late 1700s in London, it’s the story of Sir Peter Teazel, a confirmed old bachelor until he married the youthful daughter of an impoverished country squire and introduced her to the delights and excesses of London life. He wants his ward Maria to marry Joseph Surface, an oily and hypocritical young man. She would rather marry Joseph’s brother, the wastrel Charles.
As the play opens, the bitter and twisted Lady Sneerwell, who has her beady eye on Charles, prepares yet another slander, helped by the forger Snake, as she entertains the malicious Crabtree and his preening nephew Sir Benjamin Backbite, who has his own plans for Maria (or more especially, her money.) All are intent on spreading false stories about their neighbours, friends, enemies and families, and they are helped by Mrs Candour, who has convinced herself that she is working in the best possible interests of her victims.
In a world governed by the vainglorious buffoon of Mar-El-Lago and the we-don’t-know-what-to-do-so-let’s-blame-Theresa-Mays of Westminster, Sheridan’s is a timely satire, performed by the excellent Swan Company with great style and panache.
Patrick Knox is an outstanding Sir Peter, and Elaine Taylor a steely Lady Sneerwell, with Hugo Purdue and Joseph Travers convincingly if contrastingly consanguineous. New Swan member El Moy is a beautifully judged Sir Benjamin.
The music (mostly Mozart including an unusual use of the Dies Irae, followed his Musical Joke) and the witty scene changes add to the atmosphere, but they sometimes slow the action in this long play.
Well done to all involved