The School for Scandal

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

05/10/2006 - 14/10/2006

Production Details

By Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Director: Andrew Morrison

The School for Scandal (1777) is widely regarded as one of the finest comedies in the English language, and its wit, humour and social commentary still touch a nerve nearly 330 years after its premiere. The play follows the antics of a group of men and women of fashion in late eighteenth-century London, and provides a kaleidoscopic view of society at the time, from the old gentleman and his new wife, to a sneering set of gossips, and two brothers who are tested by their wealthy uncle regarding an inheritance. The various characters and plots soon collide, with hilarious consequences.

The School for Scandal combines razor-sharp wit and dialogue with scathing satire and a hefty dose of farce to create a unique theatrical experience. Don’t miss the chance to see a contemporary production of this classic play

Sir Peter Teazle           Brian Beresford
Lady Teazle                Angela Hannah
Sir Oliver Surface       Conrad Broad
Joseph Surface           Andrew Morrison
Charles Surface          Andrew Gillespie
Lady Sneerwell           Terry MacTavish
Maria                          Edie Wilkins
Mrs Candour              Jane McCabe
Sir Benjamin Backbite Tommo Cuthbert-Ashmore
Crabtree                      Don Knewstubb
Rowley                                    Simon Ashby
Moses/Servant           Wyeth Chalmers
Snake                          Jen Aitken
Careless                       Jim Conradson
Maid                            Glenda Marshall

Assistant Director       Neal Barber
Stage Manager           Neal Barber
Lighting Design          Jeffrey Vaughan
Lighting Operator      Elliot Price
Set Design                   Andrew Cook
Publicity                      Roslyn Nijenhuis
Fornt of House           Murray Robertson
Photography               Reg Graham
Wardrobe                    Jane McCabe, Leigh Paterson

Theatre ,

Flexibility and quantum leaps

Review by Helen Watson White 10th Nov 2006

In its 45 years of existence, Dunedin’s Globe Theatre has hosted an incredible number of English and European theatre classics – the "great plays" that are otherwise rarely performed nowadays, as Ross Johnston remarked in Rosalie Carey’s memoir, A Theatre in the House (University of Otago Press, 1999).

In the last 15 years I’ve seen not just one but two excellent Globe productions of R B Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, one directed by Reg Graham in 1991 and another – employing some of the same costumes but with no hint of hand-me-downs – achieved in October by Andrew Morrison, who also managed a cogent, illuminating version of Chekhov’s Seagull last year.

From the opening scene with Lady Sneerwell and Snake, her offsnider, [that was a typo but let it remain!] the festive but scandalous demolition of eighteenth-century characters proceeded with apparently unstoppable momentum until all reputations bar one or two lay abject as burst balloons on the salon floor. If Jen Aitken’s Snake – though articulate – was not quite nasty enough, Terry MacTavish’s Sneerwell made up for that with delicate proficiency, living up to Snake’s flattering assessment of her supremacy in the scandalous arts.

Janice Snowden’s Mrs Candour, bustling and bursting with gossip, was similarly impressive, as was her Maria in a recent Globe-ish Twelfth Night in which Tommo Cuthbert-Ashmore (here playing Sir Benjamin Backbite) also showed considerable comic flair. It’s a feature of Globe productions that the same actors can be moulded to fit such diverse parts: Don Knewstubb, for instance, a solidly dependable Dr Dorn in The Seagull, was barely recognizable in the part of the voluble elderly gossip Crabtree. I hope it’s not patronizing to say that some of Morrison’s development as a director is reflected in the actors learning new skills and meeting new challenges. The flexibility of the actors is, however, their own; in between these two parts Knewstubb made a formidable senior cop in the Globe’s August production, Accidental Death of an Anarchist (another comic-satiric classic) by Dario Fo.

The characters of Crabtree, his nephew Backbite, Lady Sneerwell and Mrs Candour – as their names suggest – are central to the play, largely because they have such an inflated opinion of themselves, and so very much to say. Yet they are also sycophants, feeders upon other people’s lives; they have to have events and plots to do their gossiping about. The play’s action involves therefore a complicated series of trials of love and loyalty, a comparison between two young brothers in line for an inheritance, and a quite painful exposure of how it feels to be an old man (Brian Beresford as a wretched Sir Peter Teazle) married to a young wife (Angela Hannah), when there are several handsome young bloods sniffing around.

Director Andrew Morrison was not so consumed by the task of playing Joseph Surface (which he did with ease in deception, or deceptive ease) that he lost sight of the bigger picture, or – more important – the pace of the whole. The extremely funny "screen scene", in which he played but which he also must have choreographed, was a delight. Any unevenness in acting ability (and there wasn’t much) was disguised by the general enthusiasm of the cast as an ensemble: when younger actors are given the chance to work alongside experienced professionals like Terry McTavish there’s a quantum leap in standards over all.

Long may the Globe continue to be a school for actors, directors and crew – if not for scandalmongers. It provides one of the best training and enabling-places for stage-aspirants that I know of, plus – for audiences and participants alike – an airing for some of the best scripts from our star-studded theatre-past.


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Little left to languish

Review by Clarke Isaacs 10th Oct 2006

Like the poor, scandal-mongers have always been with us. As proof positive of this assertion, one has only to be present at a modern-day staging of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, said to be the last notable play in the tradition of the English Comedy of Manners, until Oscar Wilde shone at the end of the 19th century.

First produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, in 1777, the play opened at the Globe Theatre [Dunedin] on Thursday night in front of a good-sized audience. Ancient classic it may be, but the play’s plot holds up to the light in satiric mode gossip and slander that are so much part and parcel of this nation’s life today.

With scandal-lovers – sporting the aptly descriptive names of Lady Sneerwell (Terry MacTavish), Mrs Candour (Janice Snowden), Crabtree (Don Knewstubb), and Sir Benjamin Backbite (Tommo Cuthbert-Ashmore) – eager to damage as many reputations as possible, one cannot help comparing their calumny with various notabilities dishing the dirt today on their fellows in Godzone.

But thank goodness the play has a goody, the open-hearted but reckless Charles Surface (Andrew Gillespie), whose brother Joseph (Andrew Morrison) is a philandering, nasty hypocrite. Villain Joseph, while making love to Lady Teazle (Angela Hannah), the young, effervescent gal married to old Sir Peter Teazle (Brian Beresford), wants to marry the knight’s ward, Maria (Edie Wilkins) – for her money, of course.

Added to the mix is Sir Oliver Surface (Conrad Broad), rich uncle of the two brothers, back from India in disguise to discover their true characters before choosing an heir.

The play is great fun and the cast, magnificently dressed in period costume, ensured that little of the comedy was left to languish. Strong performances were forthcoming from the principal characters, but a little less stridency often would not have gone amiss.

Directed by Andrew Morrison, The School for Scandal runs till next Saturday (no performance on Monday).


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