REVIEW ROUNDUP: Deborah Warner-Directed School for Scandal Opens in London
Sheridan's comedy, written in 1777, focuses on the backbiting and gossip that fills the worlds of some of London's elite.
The company features Anthony Mark Barrow (Servant), Leo Bill (Charles Surface), Laura Caldow (Maid), Adam Gillen (Moses), Cara Horgan (Maria), Alan Howard (Sir Peter Teazle), Will Joseph Irvine (Gentleman), Stephen Kennedy (Crabtree), Joseph Kloska (Careless), Christopher Logan (Trip), Aidan McArdle (Joseph Surface), John McEnery (Rowley), Harry Melling (Sir Benjamin Backbite), Katherine Parkinson (Lady Teazle), Vicky Pepperdine (Mrs Candour), Gary Sefton (Snake / Sir Toby Bumper), John Shrapnel (Sir Oliver Surface), Jonathan Delaney Tynan (Gentleman), Miles Yekinni (Servant), and Matilda Ziegler (Lady Sneerwell).
The creative team includes production designer Jeremy Herbert, lighting designer Jean Kalman, sound designer Christopher Shutt, and costume designer Kandis Cook, as well as Mel Mercier who has written original music.
U.K. websites and several daily papers have posted their reviews and the critics, while having difficulties with Warner's approach to the text, are admiring of many performances.
Among the reviews are:
The School for Scandal - review
"Sheridan's 1777 comic masterpiece [has been] given an uncharacteristically duff production by Deborah Warner that strains to point out the parallels between then and now."
"A few performances transcend the stylistic mish-mash of Warner's production. Alan Howard brings to Sir Peter vocal precision, a peppery temperament and a delicate pathos, and Matilda Ziegler catches exactly the silky corruption of Lady Sneerwell. The evening, in fact, begins with a nice touch in which Ziegler is stripped of her workaday modern clothes and gradually arrayed in the hooped artifice of 18th-century costume."
"If only Warner had been content to leave the juxtaposition of periods there rather than banging us over the head with the play's contemporary relevance, the production might have worked."
School for Scandal, Barbican, London
"In theory, then, Warner's concept ought to be a winner: a period-costume production with contemporary spin. Matilda Ziegler's Lady Sneerwell and her coterie look like fashion-industry poseurs going through a fancy-dress fad. Donning pannier skirts over sneakers, they launch into catwalk struts between scenes, accompanied by rock music and computer-generated projections - a swirl of Sheridan's aptronyms. But Warner hasn't fully thought through her updating, and the snazzing-up is superficial. "
"At least Alan Howard and Katherine Parkinson bring out the affection that runs deep under Lord and Lady Teazle's marital squabbles. And Leo Ringer somehow manages to be likeable as the debt-ridden, booze-swilling youth Charles Surface, even as he dashes around like a manic junkie auctioning off his inheritance."
The School for Scandal, Barbican Theatre, London
"There's plenty that's scandalous about the Barbican's new production of The School for Scandal, starting with the fact that director Deborah Warner rehearsed it for a full three months - longer than the show's run."
"Warner is naturally thrusting the play into the here-and-now 21st century, full of romantic machinations, trysts and deceit like a slightly less poisonous Les Liaisons Dangereuses. While she was once a proponent of stripped-back but meticulous text-based drama that mined texts minutely for meaning, she now seems intent on imposing her own on the play instead. But if this aggressive display of director's theatre comes full of baggage, she's also added a lot of clutter to the physical space that the actors have to negotiate."
Review: The School for Scandal
"Deborah Warner's triumphant, provocative and very noisy production of Sheridan's The School for Scandal could not be more different from Peter Hall's genteel and picturesque revival of Sheridan's other great play, The Rivals, last year."
"Warner's ensemble is of a high, and creative, calibre. Katherine Parkinson's Lady Teazle is an originally sensual and larkish foil to her own husband, while Gary Sefton's subordinate Snake is a frenzy of poisonous licks and coiled contortions, Stephen Kennedy a viciously unpleasant Crabtree, Harry Melling a grotesquely self-regarding Sir Benjamin Backbite and John McEnery a miraculously un-dull Rowley."
"Jean Kalman's lighting is deliberately haphazard, very shadowy, in line with the improvised, energetic nature of the production, which makes of Sheridan's comedy a fizzing and salutary play for today."