Every once in a while, a theatre company comes along and reclaims an old classic. It produces it in such a way that the play feels modern and makes one look at an old text and see it through fresh eyes, or in such an original way that one feels as if they are experiencing a brand new, ground breaking work of art.
This is not that production.
Still, School for Scandal is a highly enjoyable production of a long admired play. It is acted by a company of comedic actors who spend as much time mugging and ad-libbing as they do playing their characters.
Perhaps it’s best for any purists to sit this one out. The cast are onstage more to have fun and to get a reaction from the audience than they are to serve the play. But one can’t really complain about this as it is clear from the outset that this is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s rather difficult not to get caught up in the panto-like atmosphere that takes the theatre space over. The actors react to the audience and find ways of milking every laugh as much as possible.
Is School for Scandal a good production? In a word: yes. It is very entertaining and is willing to do just about anything for a laugh. But is it a good production of School for Scandal? That is the trickier question to answer. Any audience member attending this piece for the first time will probably be lost to give an in-depth description of the plot and the characters.
But consider this: how serious was this play, based on conveniences, sarcasm and bitchy rumour-mongering, intended to be? It isn’t really a great piece of literature, nor does it contain the most original of plots or one truly fully realised character. It is nothing more than a set-up for major farce playing. And though the company are a bunch of comedians (literally!!!), they are certainly all game for playing a farce.
School for Scandal is not a production for the classicist, but it is a production that exists for the sole purpose of making its audience laugh. And if you’re willing to play along, you’ll be taken for one entertaining ride.
Originally written for Onstage Scotland.
Playing at the Pleasance Courtyard at 16.00 until August 31.
Filed under: Edinburgh Festival 2009 |