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May, 2004
School for Scandal - Unicorn Theatre Abingdon - Review
School for scandal
School for scandal

"The School for Scandal"
Studio Theatre Club
Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon
7.30pm (2.30 Sat) 19-22 May
£6.50, £5.50 concessions
Box Office 01865 559655
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By Susan Biggin

Universally acclaimed when first performed in 1777, this masterpiece really does make one wonder where Sheridan got his material. He was just 25, but perhaps a few clues lie in his colourful youth in Dublin, Harrow and Bath, busy with elopement, financial difficulties, duels, marriage and barrister training. This late restoration comedy is crammed with the experiences he records, a satirical look at gossip-mongering, scandal, usury, backbiting and hypocrisy. Mechanically, it could almost pass as a period Brian Rix farce with its concocted affairs, secretion of "milliners" behind screens, and lovers in closets.

The intricate plot and lack of strong protagonists make the play difficult, but The Studio Theatre Club's skill in casting and portrayal of distinct personalities ensured that the audience didn't lose the thread. The satirically named Mrs Candour, Lady Sneerwell, Mr Charles Surface and Sir Peter Teazle were outstanding. Mrs Candour's facial expressions and eye movements were extremely engaging; Lady Sneerwell did just that; Charles gave a confident performance; while Sir Peter, though occasionally a jot too modern in his delivery, was totally believable and entertaining, and had a superb sense of timing to comic effect. There were occasional wooden moments from a weaker player, but even these performances were adequate.

The use of stage was full, intelligent and humorous at times (as Sheridan intended), the costumes good and varied, and the Mozart spot on - the genius was writing at Salzburg during Sheridan's writing of School for Scandal.

The performance finishes around 10 pm with a short interval. This fine comedy and hard-working theatre company deserved a fuller house, but they were competing with a balmy May evening and a mid-week opening, and perhaps the play is celebrated for its genre rather than as popular entertainment. Having said that, let me join the Surfaces & Co. in a toast - theirs to usuary, mine to the Studio Theatre Club's performance: "To the success it deserves!"

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