The School for Scandal, Pleasance, Edinburgh

Alice Jones
Monday 10 August 2009 00:00
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Among the many morals one can draw from Sheridan's comedy of manners is a stark warning of the perils of speaking ill of others. Try telling that to a bunch of comedians.

It's mere minutes before the cast of this Comedians Theatre Company production – including stand-ups Stephen K Amos, Phil Nichol and Marcus Brigstocke – are laying into their fellow funny men, lashing out at "Lord" Michael McIntyre ("tis a wonder he has not been hit by a carriage, he is so far in the middle of the road") and Messrs Horne and Corden, as they play out the implosion of a circle of scandal-hounds and rumourmongers.

Cal McCrystal, the witty, mercurial director behind the Barbican's riotous interactive Office Party, has assembled a crack cast of comedians who are joined by Lionel Blair and the sword-swallowing diva, Miss Behave (an expressive Lady Sneerwell). The McCrystal stamp is evident in a stylish set and some gorgeously lurid costumes – endless flounces, bustles and ruffles for the women, garish striped breeches for the men and towering perruques all round.

But this style does not find equal flair in the cast or direction. It's a case of too many comedians spoiling the joke as each one attempts to steal the stage in every scene. Blair puts in a likeable performance as the pivotal Sir Peter but too often fluffs his lines, while Nichol, often powerful, is prone to gabbling. Even the reliably flamboyant Amos doesn't make the most of Sir Benjamin Backbite. It is Brigstocke as a tipsy libertine who holds the show, while Ella Kenion puts in a delightful turn as the incorrigible Mrs Candour, delivering her juicy morsels of gossip with a maniacal smacking of her rouged lips.

The show may improve with time. For now, it feels like a rather unpolished vanity side project for a gang of comedian pals, more panto than play.

To 31 Aug (not 12, 19); 0131 556 6550

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