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THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival
By
Aug 14, 2017, 11:53
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Stratford Festival
Through October 21
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival

Sometimes you get lucky.
When Stratford impresario Antoni Cimolino scheduled Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s Restoration comedy “The School for Scandal,” he probably figured it was time for classic comedy.
How was he to know gossip and “fake news” would be an essential part of the world and political circus around us?
This is a show built around gossip and fake news in the scandal sheets of the day, three centuries ago, even though there was government censorship.
This was a monster hit in Sheridan’s day, suggesting that “what was old is new again.”
It made Sheridan very rich, as manager and part-owner of the theater where his plays were staged, at least before he drifted off into an appropriately connected field, the House of Commons.
You can get a hint of the play’s tenor just from the character names, Sir Peter Teazle (Geraint Wyn Davies), Lady Sneerwell (Maev Beaty), Sir Benjamin Backbite (Tom Rooney) and Snake (Anusree Roy), who feeds gossip to the newssheets, some accurate.
The show is built around Sir Peter.
The plot is comprehensible, more to the people of Sheridan’s day than ours.
It revolves around Sir Peter’s much younger wife, Lady Teazle (Shannon Taylor), who is rumored to be having an affair with Charles Surface (Sebastien Heins), who really wants Maria (Monice Peter).
Charles and his brother Joseph (Tyrone Savage) are of good family and bad bank account and want the wealth of their uncle, Sir Oliver (Joseph Ziegler), who has made great wealth in India, where Britain is doing well, even if the locals aren’t.
Sir Oliver is skeptical about his nephews and arranges to be introduced around under a fake name so he can see what’s really going on.
That’s one of the realities of Sheridan’s day, upper crust men weren’t supposed to work but they were supposed to live and live well.
That left few possibilities, with a much-desired one of marrying into wealth or inheriting it.
That’s what the Surface brothers are up for, either one, meanwhile borrowing from a moneylender.
Once Sheridan establishes all of this, the story rolls out and mass confusion results.
British audiences love those stories of mistaken identities.
Remember any one of Shakespeare’s plays?
This doesn’t require great intellectual effort to follow the show, although you can think many of the characters are terminally stupid and avaricious.
Much of the success of this production is Cimolino’s direction and the strong cast he has put together, undoubtedly having first choice.
Having Geraint Wyn Davies can make any show work, which is why he’s been at Stratford for so long.
He’s working with Beaty, Savage, Brent Carver’s Rowley and Ziegler’s Sir Oliver.
Julie Fox kicked in an gorgeous Restoration set.
While the name, “The School for Scandal” might scare you off in the play list for the festival, don’t let that bother you.
It’s worth seeing, in this world of real fake news and gossip.

A.W.

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