Comedy stands test of time

constance and Tony Lumpkin

Constance and Tony Lumpkin  played by Polly Hughes and Joe Bateman.Picture: Alex Hinds

She Stoops to Conquer

Malvern Theatres

****

OLIVER Goldsmith was a small awkward boy at school and suffered from a total lack of self-confidence.

In She Stoops to Conquer he has projected some of that comically into the character of young Marlow who stutters and quivers in the presence of women of breeding and education, whereas he projects a totally different persona in the company of women of lesser social rank.

Marlow is intended to become the husband of Kate Hardcastle by the agreement of their fathers who have been good friends; however his first meeting with her is a disaster as he stutters and makes a fool of himself.

However Kate chooses to adopt the guise of a barmaid and when they meet again Marlow has the confidence to reveal his true personality and they fall in love. Kate has stooped to conquer in that regard, and after he has apologised for his earlier disrespectful conduct towards Hardcastle, the match is agreed by the delighted parents.

In the sub-plot Marlow’s friend Hastings has already won the heart of Kate’s cousin, Constance Neville, but for their marriage to be agreed they have hurdles to overcome: Mrs Hardcastle intends Constance to marry her own son by her first marriage Tony Lumpkin, in order to keep Constance’s wealth in the family.

Tony however is not interested and indeed unsuitable in the light of his character which, as his name suggests, is a frivolous if good-hearted ‘good-for-little’! In this famous comedy the obstacles are overcome in the end and all ends happily ever after.

The language and style of this play reflects the period in which it was first produced in 1773. It invites the company to act in the style of a farce with grand gestures and exaggerated tones.

It also requires the company producing it to deliver lines with real care to ensure that the slightly quaint older language is accessible to a modern audience. The Creative Cow Company who have revived this play in Malvern this week have taken great care in this regard and their excellent delivery makes it a delight.

The design for the show is simple and very effective: the four large, ornate, gilt frames suggest the older style of the property; they function as doors, windows, mirrors and picture frames; they are easily moved around to provide different shapes and atmospheres for different scenes and settings and worked very well.

The costumes and wigs were similarly very effective against the dark background, and when the trees were needed for the garden scene, it was managed with humour as well as simplicity and success.

The roles of Tony Lumpkin and Mr Hardcastle were particularly well played by Joe Bateman and David Summer; they conveyed the humour very well and were very convincing and the live music was delightful! The young girls played by Leonie Spilsbury and Polly Hughes were likewise strong, and the whole team were technically very slick and proficient.

The second half of the play builds naturally on the exposition in the first and was particularly full of fun and vigour. The audience clearly enjoyed and appreciated the entertainment. To 14-06-14. 

Tim Crowe

10-06-14 

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