Theatre Review: The School For Scandal at the Barbican

Sheridan’s play lampooning 18th century society THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL is played as a very modern farce at the Barbican.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote The School for Scandal in 1777 but Deborah Warner’s new production feels as if it were written yesterday.

A searing lampoon of a society obsessed by wit, fashion and public reputation, the staging is loud and chaotic, blending Sheridan’s lively script with modern music, sensational direction and a raft of deliberately anachronistic touches such as a doorbell and a mobile phone.

The stellar cast clearly love every minute of it, relishing the bitchiness, hedonism and skulduggery of the 200 year-old plot.

Leo Bill hams it up as Charles Surface, a spendthrift libertine, while John Shrapnel delivers a standout performance as Sir Oliver Surface, his wealthy uncle, who is deciding to which of his two nephews he will leave his fortune.

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Two notes of caution. First, at three and a half hours it’s a fairly draining experience. Second, unless you are familiar with Sheridan’s original it might take a couple of scenes to get used to the language. It’s worth taking the time to read the synopsis in advance just so you can focus on wonderful script without worrying too much about what is going on.

Lavish and in-your-face, Warner’s high-octane reinvention of Sheridan’s classic play is a fantastically farcical night out.

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* Showing at the Barbican in Silk Street, EC2, until Saturday, June 18.

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