Sheridan tends to get smothered in fluttering fans, flouncing petticoats and a good deal of actorish posturing, pace the late Sir Ralph Richardson, so this unusual production for the RSC by Declan Donnellan, late of Cheek by Jowl, designed by his long-term partner, Nick Ormerod, is in some ways a welcome breath of fresh air. The RSC has not performed the play since 1942, so it is difficult to see why Adrian Noble did not come up with one more in the traditions of that institution, rather than inviting a cuckoo like Donnellan into the company nest. It is set in a red brick warehouse where the Prince of Wales is partying, the cast being his guests. Lined with galleries, which afford lots of nooks and crannies for the cast, on stage all the time, to watch what is going on, apt in a play about gossip and overhearing things. This is hardly the Theatre Royal, Haymarket approach, which would be

more in the manner of Fragonard than Hogarth.

Matthew Macfadyen makes an endearing Charles Surface, Jason O'Mara oozes hypocrisy as his double dealing brother, Joseph, and Deborah Findlay, Celia Imrie, and Stephen Mangan could not be bettered as the gossips. Emma Fielding is a spirited Irish Lady Teazle, but, admirable though Kenneth Cranham is, Donnellan's approach to the play diminishes the role of Sir Peter Teazle. It is Tim Wylton's rumbustuous Sir Oliver Surface who dominates, something Richardson would never have allowed.