Tolethorpe June 2018

A select group of Red Hatters met at Tolethorpe on Wednesday 21st June for a spot of scandal. And without our Queen who was ‘enjoying’ a residential week with her pupils!

The Stamford Shakespeare Company do a non-Shakespeare play each year as part of their repertoire, and this year it was Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’. It centres on Lady Sneerwell and her group of friends who amuse themselves by spreading malicious gossip about their acquaintances. One new recruit to this fashionable coterie (and yes, their costumes were lovely) is the young beautiful Lady Teazle, who has recently the rich and elderly Sir Peter Teazle and enjoys spending his money, arguing with him and learning to gossip with the best of them.

Also in town are two brothers who are under the informal guardianship of Sir Peter. The oldest, Joseph Surface is apparently all a young man should be, ‘a man of sentiment who lives up to all he professes’. The younger, Charles, spends his money on drink and parties and is in debt. Both are in love with Sir Peter’s ward Maria.

When the brothers’ rich Uncle Oliver comes back after 16 years in the East, he decides to visit each brother in disguise to test their characters. To Charles he is Mr Premium who can lend him money; he is outraged when offered the family portraits in payment for the loan – though is touched when his nephew refuses to sell his uncle Oliver’s portrait and gives some of his money to another poor relative, Mr Stanley.  

Uncle Oliver visits Joseph in the guise Mr Stanley and begs for money; Joseph is full of sentiment but refuses to help. Lady Teazle also visits Joseph and is being seduced by him when Sir Peter arrives; she hides behind a screen to avoid being compromised and so hears both how much her husband really loves her and how hypocritical Joseph is. When Charles arrives he finds Lady Teazle behind the screen and there is general consternation.

Uncle Oliver is now revealed for who he really is. Joseph, Lady Sneerwell (who was hoping to marry Charles all along) and her friends are all disgraced. The Teazles are reunited, Charles is accepted by Maria and we hope all the goodies live happily ever after.

It was a lovely evening for a picnic on the Tolethorpe lawns and a witty light hearted play. If you haven’t been before, do go this season. One word of advice; the auditorium has a roof, but the air cools after sunset so bring a blanket to wrap up in!