The School For Scandal Review - Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

The current tour is a master reworking of Sheridan’s farcical 18th century play, The School for Scandal. There's a team of eight talented actors who play fifteen roles between them. 

A well-established tradition often used with Shakespearean plays, is changing to another time period. This adaptation is placed firmly in the 1950s, complete with telephones of that time and the exquisite dress sense of that era.  

The plot is typically complicated. Sir Peter Teazle (Joseph Marcell) seriously regrets his marriage to the very young Lady Teazle (Lydea Perkins) who has got in with the local gossips, such as Lady Sneerwell (Emily-Jane McNeill) and Crabtree (Tony Timberlake) who delight in nothing more than spreading rumours of scandal and destroying reputations on the way.

Centre of focus are two brothers – Joseph (Alex Phelps) and Charles (Garmon Rhys) – one of whom is a rogue and the other the epitome of goodness. But all is not as it seems. Their uncle, Sir Oliver (also played by Tony Timberlake), newly returned after many years away, hatches a plan with his friend, Sir Peter Teazle, to see which of the brothers is the better man.

As you might imagine, the results are hilarious and very silly, but in the best possible way. Tilted Wig, in their programme notes, make the legitimate connection of the turmoil England was facing at the time of first production after America declared independence.

Sheridan tries to recapture the spirit of the restoration period to bring much-needed fun back into British lives. Likewise, today, post-Brexit and post-Covid as we are, it can be argued we could do with that fun all over again!!

Fun it is too – at least once you get used to the language and the relatively long back story parts. The first half is amusing but does seem to spend quite some time setting up the gags to come. It is worth it for the second half, which really is very funny indeed and with a much swifter pace.

The actors are wonderfully comic with superb facial expressions that make even the most difficult parts of the language very intelligible. Alex Phelps and Garmon Rhys are particularly good at this when playing the brothers.

Extra credit goes to Rhys, for playing two characters so very differently. 

The School For Scandal runs until Saturday 23rd March at The Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne. Tickets are available online at www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk or by calling 01323 412000

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