Review by Anina-Marie & Kieran J. Evans
Villanova Players’ production of the classic comedy of manners The School for Scandal is hilarious. This show is well worth attending if you enjoy comedy and particularly other classics of the genre such as Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The show is amazingly delivered by an excellent and talented cast with immense dedication to the dialogue heavy, witty comedic style of the script.
The original text was written by Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and became an almost instant success. The play first premiered in Drury Lane Theatre in London in 1777 and has been adapted to film numerous times. The play centres on the drama that unfolds between Sir Peter and his young wife, Lady Teazle. As well as two brothers, Joseph and Charles Surface, as they unknowingly vie for their inheritance from their wealthy uncle, Sir Oliver. All of this is amplified by the gossiping Lady Sneerwell and her posse.
Directed by Jacqueline Kerr, assisted by Leo Bradley, the pacing, timing and blocking of this production flows seamlessly. The School for Scandal includes some fabulously staged moments including a hilarious scene where Mrs Crabtree and her nephew, Sir Benjamin Backbite, are leaving Lady Sneerwell’s house but keep circling back to have the last word, a highly comedic scene where Lady Teazle and Sir Peter hide in Mr Surface’s residence culminating in a perfectly timed, absolutely hilarious scene. Jacqueline’s direction is precise and deliberate, emphasising the wonderful wit of the script.
The aesthetic design of this production is exquisite from beginning to end. Starting with the extraordinary costumes designed by Jacqueline Kerr, Desley Nichols, Lia Surrento and Alison Clark. Each character has a signature colour, decked out in exactly the sort of elaborate suits and dresses to be expected of the time period. The shoes in particular with giant bows are gorgeous and perfectly comical. The set design by Jacqueline Kerr, B’Elanna Hill, Ayden McCarthy and John Evans perfectly represents the era. B’Elanna Hill’s lighting design is simple, yet effective and carries the mood for the show. Occasionally, some actors remain in partial darkness for monologues.
In the role of Sir Peter Teazle is the talented John Evans. John embodies the very nature of the respectable, well-to-do gentleman persnickety at the liberties his new wife is taking with his fortune. John’s performance is highly entertaining as he delivers complex monologues with conviction.
As Lady Teazle, Hannah Martin is absolutely perfect from beginning to end, and a real standout of this production. Hannah’s comedic timing is impressive as she manages to make a stereotypical gold-digger into a complex multi-layered character. Bravo!
Helen Ekundayo delivers a fabulously bitter gossiping harridan of a Lady Sneerwell. Helen’s performance is word perfect and feels authentic.
Leo Bradley’s Sir Oliver is the very model of the doting if cautious uncle that wishes to see his nephews make a positive change in the world. Leo’s performance is believable, polished, and professional from beginning to end.
Michael McNish as Joseph Surface is extremely polished and highly professional; another standout of this production. Michael’s excellent delivery of some very complex dialogue highlights his ability as an actor.
Gabriel King as Charles Surface is perfectly aloof, and a fabulous rake, playboy, and gambler. Gabriel’s performance is a wonderful contrast to that of Michael in the role of his brother. Gabriel brings excellent comedy to every scene he is in.
Milton Scully, as Rowley, performs a marvellous underrated servant that assists Sir Oliver with his schemes. Milton, despite a few minor slip-ups with his lines, acquits himself as a wonderfully talented actor, with a knack for awkward comedy.
Hannah Kennedy’s Maria is the very model of the stuck up lady of society, fussy about her choice of husband. Hannah, although occasionally a little too quiet to hear, makes up for it with a bold personality. An excellent casting choice for this role.
Blaise Ahern, Karen Neale, and Jacqueline Kerr as Sir Benjamin Backbite, Mrs Candour, and Mrs Crabtree respectively are all fabulous. Blaise and Jacqueline are a perfect duo as nephew and aunt, their collaboration creates some hilarious moments; the audience laughs out loud. Karen Neale’s Mrs Candour is perfectly delivered, absolutely hilarious, and a standout of the supporting cast.
Lachlan Gregory Hugh, Steven Eggington, Peter Cattach, and Ken Dutt, support and build out the world of this show with excellent performances delivered with authenticity, conviction, and panache.
All in all, Villanova Players’ The School for Scandal, is a wonderful night out at the theatre that anyone with a taste for comedy or schadenfreude would enjoy. This show is witty, funny, perfectly staged, and delivered by a wonderful cast who treat the audience to a spectacular night out.
The School for Scandal will play at the Ron Hurley Theatre until 3 July 2022, tickets are available here.