BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
First performed in 1773 with Goldsmith’s aim of bringing
comedy back to the fore after more sombre fare, this is a play which has stood
the test of time and much of it still relevant. Think of John Osborne and his
‘kitchen sink’ gritty dramas pushing Noël Coward and his ilk out of favour,
later to be back in fashion.
Old fashioned country gentleman Mr Hardcastle bemoans the
fact that London folk were infiltrating the country villages, bringing their
pretensions and affectations with them, and disillusionment with government is
also high on his list—sound familiar?
Creative Cow has rightly treated this play as a glorious
romp, and as laughter is supposed to be the best medicine we should all feel
the better for it, especially with Amanda Knott keeping the production at a
cracking pace with comical misunderstandings falling over each other.
Life-sized picture frames are used to create various scenes
of doorways, corridors or a country inn, and the cast whisk all the scenery and
props around, at one point causing a lot of laughter when the trees seen in the
grounds outside rise up, march to the front of the stage and re-arrange
themselves to join the horse pond.
The rather complicated plot revolves around the machinations
of Mrs Hardcastle’s son Tony Lumpkin (previous marriage) played as if born to
the role by recent graduate Joe Bateman, making his professional debut.
Indulged by his mother, who believes he has no need of an education to spend
the fortune he will inherit, his stepfather regards him as a spoilt oaf and
dislikes his habit of frequenting the low-life of The Three Pigeons and of
playing practical jokes, but Toby is not as silly and self-indulgent as he at
In act 1, we are told a lot about what to expect from the
play with the ‘double act’ of the Hardcastles’ affectionate argument, mostly
addressed to the audience and with great expressions to match, and with
Katherine Senior in terrific form as the manipulative matriarch and David
Summer her realistic husband.
We are told a lot more when learning that Marlow,
reluctantly coming to pay court to daughter Kate Hardcastle, is a stammering
shy wreck with fashionable ladies but a rampant rogue with woman of lower
class. When he and friend Hastings come across Tony at the Three Pigeons, he
directs them, with great glee, to the Hardcastle house, telling them it is an
inn where they can spend the night, and the fun and complications begin.
They treat their bewildered host appallingly, demanding to
be waited on, totally ignoring his polite efforts at conversation, a scenario
made all the funnier because we know what’s going on and they don’t.
Leonie Spilsbury is a delightful Kate with Polly Hughes her
attractive (rather fast-talking) cousin in love with Hastings (Jonathan
Parish). George Jennings is either annoyingly arrogant or painfully shy as
Marlow and Steve Jacobs is everyone else. All performances first class.
Some of the costumes are a little unexpected: hooped skirts
without the skirt and bloomers proudly shown. I wonder how that would have gone
down with 18th century audiences.
This mixture of social satire and farcical comedy with a
couple of love stories thrown in, not to mention comic song and carousing in
the pub, is a real ‘something for everyone’ treat. Great fun.
by Anne Broom
Gilded picture frames
flamboyantly set off this rich comic gem, instantly placing the story’s fulsome
and decorative characters in period context. Inventively deployed in Creative
Cow’s fine revival of Goldsmith’s classic play, they enhance entrances, capture
intimate conversations and hide eavesdroppers.
Played at a swift pace and with a
light touch, with dialogue clearly articulated, the comedy throughout
Goldsmith’s play - initially entitled The Mistakes of a Night - is played
through to its final, happy resolution. Scenes are changed with period courtesy
and action is underpinned by jaunty music. With exquisitely choreographed
movement, this entertaining and clever production once again bears all the
hallmarks of artistic director Amanda Knott’s imaginative work.
Young ladies are elegant in
stylised costume; beribboned skeleton hoops give saucy glimpses of lace-trimmed
pantaloons. With an assured and confident manner and innate comedy timing,
Katherine Senior is a well-judged Mrs Hardcastle, her impressive wig - adorned
with jewelled butterflies, flowers and ostrich feathers - making its own
statement. Capturing the requisite period style, elegant hands express eloquent
gesture. Live music, jollity and raucous song enliven the scene set in the Three
Pigeons alehouse, while a forest of fir trees takes the action outdoors.
Polly Hughes is captivating and
mischievous as Constance, while Leonie Spilsbury captures Kate’s coquettish
charm, with David Summer as her father, the bemused Mr Hardcastle. Making their
mark in a professional debut, Joe Bateman is a boisterous, good-natured Tony
Lumpkin, with George Jennings as the shy, tongue-tied Marlow. Jonathan Parish
is elegant and credible as Hastings, while Steve Jacobs completes a strong and
EAST HAMPSHIRE NEWS
or more intelligibly Mistakes of a Night because this is
what we see and there are heaps of mistakes, parents misunderstanding
children’s desires, strangers misreading others’ characters or social status
and all these as the plot progresses gradually boil down to Young Marlowe’s not
appreciating where he is residing.
It is a well-known and often played comedy and one of the
few still enjoyable plays of the eighteenth century so I need not extol its
virtues. What needs repeating is the admirable work of Amanda Knott’s Creative
Cow, a company of sustained quality led vivaciously by Katherine Senior as a
much derided and abused Mrs Hardcastle and Jonathan Parish as the successful
If you have never seen this play, this production is one to
enjoy, one of the gems of English Drama, in a simple practical set with
bustling music and an exposition quickly presented. The charmingly ridiculous
nature of wooing and the final reconciliation of all parties allow the audience
to leave with a blessing.
Do support this excellent Creative Cow this week at the
Yvonne Arnaud theatre; the programme has a clear synopsis for anyone who likes
to know in advance what is going to happen and indeed the production a little
resembles a homely comprehensible opera without song (except for Tony Lumpkin’s
rendering in the Three Pigeons). Mrs Hardcastle has her own measure of it with
“…like the whining end of a modern novel”.
The house was full and everyone content.
She Stoops to ConquerOliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops To
HEREFORD NEWS By John Phillpott .
She Stoops to Conquer/Malvern Theatres
IT was a neat touch to scatter original articles from an
18th century magazine in the programme for this play.
A simple move, yet it opened up a small window on the
Georgian literary psyche, preparing us for what was to come via the glorious
language that flowed so effortlessly from the pen of Oliver Goldsmith.
It is a form of both spoken and written English that appears
almost absurdly ornate today, flowery in the extreme.
Yet has an undeniable beauty - and all the more so when in
the hands of a supremely talented cast that skilfully keeps the momentum going
throughout what is perhaps a rather long performance.
It is 1773, a time when elegance – or inelegance - of
diction indicated one’s standing in society. And therein lies the nub of this
ultimate comedy of manners, a dramatic genre that would probably have been lost
to time had it not been for this evergreen work.
And directed by Amanda Knott, this production deftly taps
into an age when etiquette was everything, reputations made or ruined by the
simple act of opening one’s mouth.
The proceedings start in fine form with David Summer’s
uproarious portrayal of country squire Mr Hardcastle, keen to ensure his
daughter Kate (Leonie Spilsbury) weds the son of an old military mucker from
his days of campaigning with Marlborough.
Marlow (George Jennings) is the young gentleman in question,
a would-be rake more at ease with alehouse wenches than ladies of breeding. And
it is this flaw in his character that provides the running joke throughout the
evening, ably assisted by the hysterical Mrs Hardcastle, played with glorious
hyperactivity by Katherine Senior.
No period play would be complete without the resident fool.
But in this case we have very much more than your usual village idiot, courtesy
of Joe Bateman as Tony Lumpkin, a conniving coxcomb of a clown who careers
effortlessly from rowdy tavern to sedate drawing room.
It says a lot for the power of Oliver Goldsmith’s pen that
this classic has travelled so well down the intervening centuries, the passage
of years sapping none of the work’s power to amuse.
She Stoops to Conquer is a Creative Cow production and runs
until Saturday (June 14).