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ZOE RAINEY as Maria, GRANT GILLESPIE as Sir Benjamin Backbite and MAGGIE STEED as Mrs Candour– Photo By Johan Perrson 

The School for Scandal
Theatre Royal Bath
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NIGEL HARMAN, MAGGIE STEED and IAN McNEICE star in Sheridan’s witty comedy THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL as the curtain rises on the Theatre Royal Bath’s Summer Season

The Theatre Royal Bath’s 2012 Summer Season has opened with a new production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s glorious comedy THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL starring Nigel Harman, Maggie Steed, Ian McNeice, Serena Evans, James Laurenson and Susannah Fielding. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, Sheridan’s hilarious 18th century romp appears at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 21st July.

Sparkling with wit, verbal brilliance and an intricate plot exposing the lives and loves of the upper classes in fashionable London society, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal remains as sharp and funny today as when it was written in the 18th century.

JAMES LAURENSON as Sir Peter Teazle, JOHN CONROY as Rowley and IAN McNEICE as Sir Oliver Surface– Photo By Johan Perrson 

Sir Peter Teazle has married a young country girl in the hope that she will be too innocent to cause him any bother, but his aims are thwarted when she takes up with the most outrageous set of scandalmongers in town; Lady Sneerwell, Mrs Candour and Sir Benjamin Backbite, who thrive on making mayhem from malicious tittle-tattle. Add into the equation, the notorious playboy Charles Surface; his brother Joseph, an apparently honourable gentleman; Sir Peter’s ward, the gossip-loathing Maria with whom both brothers are in love; and an array of servants both upright and downright wicked; and the scene is set for this classic English comedy of manners which relishes every opportunity to poke fun at the society in which it is set.

Olivier Award-winning actor Nigel Harman stars as Charles Surface. Well-known on television for his role as Dennis Rickman in over 300 episodes of EastEnders, his extensive stage credits include, in the West End, the roles of Lord Farquaad in Shrek The Musical, for which he won the 2012 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical; Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls; and the Olivier Award nominated production of Three Days of Rain directed by Jamie Lloyd.  He last performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in 1998 in The Pirates of Penzance with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. His many television and film credits also include Miss Marple – The Mirror Crack’d, Hotel Babylon, Lark Rise To Candleford, Red Cap, Patience, Telstar and Blood Diamond.

Maggie Steed stars as Mrs Candour. She has worked extensively with the National Theatre playing the role of Mrs Lintott in The

(second right) NIGEL HARMAN as Charles Surface with members of the company – Photo By Johan Perrson

History Boys in London and on world tour, and starring as Lavinia Penniman in The Heiress, which toured to Bath in 2000.  She has also performed many times in the West End, on tour and with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Her extensive television credits range from Martin Chuzzlewit and Pie in the Sky to Born and Bred and Jam and Jerusalem.

The role of Sir Oliver Surface is played by Ian McNeice, who was recently seen as Winston Churchill in Bath in The King’s Speech.  Best known for his role as Bert Large in ITV’s Doc Martin, he is a prolific actor who has appeared in numerous films and television programmes including Jonathan Creek, Doctor Who, Chef! and Edge of Darkness. He has also spent several years as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared in Nicholas Nickleby on Broadway.  In Bath, he has also performed at the Theatre Royal in Kean in 1990.

Serena Evans appears as Lady Sneerwell.  Well-known on television for her role as Sergeant Dawkins in the comedy The Thin Blue Line, as well as The Comic Strip Presents and The Piglet Files, her many stage credits include Once in a Lifetime at the National Theatre; God of Carnage, which toured to Bath in 2009; Present Laughter, which played the Theatre Royal in 2010; and The Merry Wives of Windsor for the Globe which also visited Bath in 2010.

GRANT GILLESPIE as Sir Benjamin Backbite, MAGGIE STEED as Mrs Candour and SERENA EVANS as Lady Sneerwell – Photo By Johan Perrson

A favourite with Bath audiences, James Laurenson appears as Sir Peter Teazle. He has frequently performed with The Peter Hall Company and was last seen at the Theatre Royal in The Apple Cart in 2009. His film credits range from The Bourne Identity to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and his television work includes Spooks, Margaret Thatcher – The Long Walk to Finchley, Ghostboat and Churchill at War.  His many stage roles include starring in Peter Hall’s iconic 50th anniversary production of Waiting for Godot, in Bath and in the West End; Measure for Measure for The Peter Hall Company 2006, in Bath and at the RSC; and Pygmalion, in Bath in 2008 prior to London’s Old Vic Theatre.

Susannah Fielding plays the role of Lady Teazle. Her television credits include the role of Chloe in Peter Versus Life with Rafe Spall, and appearances in the BAFTA award-winning drama series Wallander, Midsomer Murders and Doctor Who. Her stage work includes The Merchant of Venice with Patrick Stewart at the Royal Shakespeare Company; four productions for the National Theatre’s 2007/2008 Season; An Enemy of the People with Antony Sher at Sheffield Crucible, for which she was nominated for the Ian Charleson Award; and All New People with Zach Braff in the West End.

Playing the role of Joseph Surface is Edward Bennett, who recently starred in the Ustinov Studio’s critically acclaimed UK premiere of In The Next Room or the Vibrator Play.  His many stage credits include several productions for the RSC including Hamlet in the West End, and Pygmalion, Little Nell, Habeas Corpus and Measure for Measure, all for The Peter Hall Company at the Theatre Royal Bath. His film and television credits include War Horse, Above Suspicion and Doctors.

(left) IAN McNEICE as Sir Oliver Surface and (right) NIGEL HARMAN as Charles Surface with members of the company
Photo By Johan Perrson

The cast of The School for Scandal is completed by Greg Barnett, John Conroy, Timothy Speyer, Matthew Seadon-Young, David Killick, Grant Gillespie, Stuart Ellis and Zoe Rainey.

Multi award-winning Jamie Lloyd is one of the leading theatre directors of his generation. His recent productions include She Stoops to Conquer at the National Theatre and The Duchess of Malfi at London’s Old Vic.  His 2008 production of The Pride at the Royal Court Theatre won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement by an Affiliate Theatre. His West End production of Three Days of Rain starring James McAvoy and Nigel Harman was also nominated for an Olivier Award.  His production of Piaf, which appeared at the Donmar, in the West End, and in Argentina and Madrid, won the Clarin Award for Best Musical Production, the ADEET Award for Best Production, and was Olivier Award nominated for Best Musical Revival.  He was Associate Director of the Donmar from 2008 to 2011, where his production of Passion won Best Musical at the 2010 Evening Standard Awards.

Writer Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) wrote two comic masterpieces for the stage, The School for Scandal and The Rivals.  His work also includes The Critic, A Trip To Scarborough and the comic opera The Duenna.  Although known as a playwright, Sheridan had several careers during his lifetime, he was also manager and part-owner of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a Parliamentary Member and prominent Whig.  He was born in Dublin and in 1770 the Sheridan family moved to Bath where Richard fell in love with a beautiful young singer, Elizabeth Linley with whom he eloped and later married. His first play The Rivals was set in Bath.

THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL appears at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 21st July. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk

(front row – left to right) SUSANNAH FIELDING as Lady Teazle, JAMES LAURENSON as Sir Peter Teazle, NIGEL HARMAN as Charles Surface, ZOE RAINEY as Maria, IAN McNEICE as Sir Oliver Surface and members of the company
Photo By Johan Perrson