Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

The School For Scandal
by  Richard Brinsley Sheridan   directed by Paul Philpott

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, December 2014

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A Review of The School For Scandal
by  Chris Avery

Comedy from a previous age is often something of an unknown quantity for a modern audience; will the humour survive the journey of more than 200 years and still make us laugh? Will the style appear stilted and mannered to those used to a more naturalistic style of theatre? Not having previously seen The School for Scandal, these questions were certainly on my mind, but within a very few moments I was reassured that this was going to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre. Paul Philpott's production was always a delight to watch, with beautiful and colourful costumes, a simple but elegant set, actors constantly moving around to present an ever changing and always pleasing stage picture, and the entire piece presented at a bubbling pace which never allowed interest to flag.

This was just as well, as the intricate plot, featuring layers of deception, machination and confusion, required considerable concentration on the part of the audience. However, good diction and projection from the entire cast made it relatively easy to follow the at least major plot twists and the story unfolded to leave goodness rewarded and hypocrisy unmasked in a most satisfactory manner.

In his programme notes, the director explained that as there is by no means a definitive version of the script, he had followed established practice by cutting some scenes, changing the order of others and reverting to a character from the original script in place of one more common in later versions. He felt that this provided a more concise and faster paced play which would be more accessible for today's audiences. I felt he had succeeded in this, enabling Sheridan's wit to sparkle through, and proving that well written comedy certainly can and does stand the test of time. I also applauded the set design, which conveyed the changing locations by the use of different colours on the cyclorama and the substitution of various pieces of very well chosen furniture and accessories. Scene changes were effected by those members of the cast playing servants to the accompaniment of delightful pieces of music from the period.

 All the actors did well and were a pleasure to watch. As it was a large cast, I will mention by name only those whose performances I found especially enjoyable, but no-one should feel slighted by this, as they all deserved praise. Peter Simmons and Jonathan Totman as Sir Oliver Surface and his nephew Charles were, I felt, completely in command of their roles and their confident stage presence made me feel that I was in competent hands. Mandy Jeffery (a self confessed Sheridan 'fan-girl') obviously thoroughly enjoyed herself as the indefatigable gossip Mrs Candour, while Chris Hudson entertainingly fopped his way through the evening as Sir Benjamin Backbite. I very much enjoyed the scenes between Andrew Shepherd and Sarah Middle as Sir Peter and Lady Teazle, especially Sir Peter's candid confessions direct to the audience of his simultaneous exasperation with and love for his young wife. David Philpott (Joseph Surface), Miriam Chambers (Maria), Graham Waterhouse (Rowley) and Hugh Mellor (Moses) provided excellent support and the entire cast worked very well together.

The production was a worthy addition to the long list of excellent entertainment provided by BAWDS and CAC in this pre-Christmas slot, and the director, cast and crew are all to be complimented on the play, which was greatly enjoyed by, I'm told, a succession of excellent and most appreciative audiences.