School for Scandal by R B Sheridan - adapted and directed by Daniel Curley ---------------------
"This production has some curious mixes in it. The original is an 18th century sideswipe comedy of manners rooted firmly in the crude wit and bitchiness of that age, whereas this production had been updated to the 1920's as a sort of louche wit of a Lucia and Mapp pastiche.
Interestingly, by stripping away much of the Regency costumes and mannerisms, the director managed to strip away much of the obscure and impenetrable language. The result was a story told in a far clearer manner."
Jim Hutchon-Weekly News
"Too often one hears that 'things are much worse nowadays than they used to be' but tabloid journalism or the so called real life events that magazines like Hello revel in, pale into insignificance when compared to the hypocrisy, malice and scandal-mongering of English society in the C18th. How they wallowed in character assassinations and monstrous exaggerations with scant concern for their victims! Sheridan's characters depict this awfulness wonderfully and there was no stopping tonight's performers in aiming their characterisations to exemplify the worst traits possible - how we all loved it and laughed uproariously at their cruelty.
This performance was a joy to watch and I applaud the director in having the courage and talent to adapt this play so so that it was more accessible for modern audiences but staying faithful to the original. Also I expected to witness a performance that showed an emphatic directorial stamp, using stylised staging and create many varied, funny and fascinating stage pictures; I wasn't disappointed.
The FOH staff surpassed themselves with superlative costumes and loads of attention, the speed that the queue for coffee diminished was amazing, the programme was excellent and the displays all of the highest order. They set the keynote for the continued excellence. The house was full, (overflowing the night before!) and the friendly and expectant buzz in the hall was infectious; it makes such a difference - so full marks for all the publicity and/or arm twisting to ensure this. Also the flowers either side of the main tabs were particularly superb and indicative of the period; all the way through this evening I was impressed with the attention to details no matter how small. The set was splendid; delicately painted and with minimal furniture allowing for the maximum of space so focussing attention on the cast, words and pictures; moving the furniture was all carefully choreographed in accordance with the mood of the moment and kept the action flowing at all times, all three exits were utilised well.
Lighting and sound were both immaculate and the costumes beautiful. The change of period worked well for the themes and the company had put lots of effort into making the scenes look right. Here again it is the final detailing that pays off; all the clothes were immaculately pressed, indicative of grandeur and wealth from the furs of Mrs Candour and Lady Teazle, the diamante of Maria's dress to the cut of the gentlemen's suits. I particularly liked Mrs Candour's hat, the red of Lady Teazle's dress, the sleek hair of Sir Benjamin along with dandy hanky, and Crabtree's cane and monocle but this was an ensemble production in every way and so it's almost unfair to leave other details out. However I did have two minor concerns; Lady Sneerwell's hairstyle was too soft and young for this character, it needed to match her archness and the colour of Maria's dress was too close to that of the set, so that she didn't stand out enough.
The Director had a clear vision as to what he wants the audience to see and it was a joy to experience the discipline that he has put into moves, often of an ensemble nature, emphasis on lines, words, moments, exits and reactions. The evening was filled with these, too many to mention but I offer a few here that I marked in particular:-
- All the opportunities used to illustrate the spread of gossip especially
when silence interspersed with tittle-tattle
- The togetherness as they all sighed and sat down
- Mrs Candour's first arrival coupled with the servant reaction
- Crabtree and Backbite duo performance throughout
- The lovely positioning for the 'Tale of the Piper twins'
- Beautiful stress on the word 'welsh' and the reaction that followed
- The eroticism displayed for a brief moment between Lady T and
- The portrait gallery
- The duet that started the second act
- Holding the moment after discovering Lady T behind the screen
- The gossip scene that followed with gross exaggerations
The director achieved fine performances form all his cast, some were outstanding. Stanslavski's famous quote of 'there are no small parts, only small actors' was wonderfully demonstrated here as all the servants and scene-shifters were particularly superb and memorable.
The trouble with adjudicating something very, very good is that I find myself being even more critical as I feel you are working towards higher standards. This was a wonderful ensemble evenings performance that had been developed from excellent material by a director whose vision was clear. I loved it, the audience loved it and you all deserve congratulations. Thankyou."
Tricia Stephens-North West Essex Theatre Guild
"This 18th Century play has been adapted and updated by the director and was set in the 1920's and 1930's, with some added song and dance routines. This worked well and thought it was an entertaining piece. There was also the nice touch of having the Front of House staff dressed in period costume.
The direction was excellent, the action moved with a good pace. The setting was innovative insofar as a variety of locations needed to be staged. In addition with a larger than normal cast, and the need for space for the song and dance routines, the stage was very open.
The wardrobe was excellent for the period. I did spot the odd errant pair of shoes, often an item overlooked in period pieces.
Again not a great deal for backstage to do in this play, but as I have said before if you neither hear or see backstage, then they have achieved their aim.
This style/type of play is what the group are particularly good at producing, and it is always encouraging to see Group's tackle the more challenging shows."
Colin Butcher-National Operatic and Dramatic Association
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