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Silly fun: She Stoops To Conquer @nationaltheatre

She-stoops-to-conquerIt is definitely the performances that make Oliver Goldsmith's 18th century play She Stoops To Conquer so thoroughly entertaining.

There is a scene where Mrs Hardcastle the well-intentioned but interfering mother played by Sophie Thompson is trying to show off that she isn't a country bumpkin but up to speed with the latest fashion and trends to her daughter's potential suitor and city-boy Marlow (Harry Hadden-Paton).

Thompson's Mrs Hardcastle does a superb job of trying to put on what she thinks is an accent that demonstrates city sophistication but is really failing miserably. It is brilliantly funny to watch but all the time you are aware that what she is saying rather than just how she was saying it would be having exactly the same effect on the 18th century audience.

It's not that everything in the script goes over our 21st century heads, far from it, but there is another level of humour that you just occasionally comprehend like getting glimpse through a crack in the door.

But the performances certainly fill the gap. Goldsmith has, after all, created the sort characters and situation that directors and actors can have a lot of fun with. The aforementioned Marlow, for instance, we are told from the outset has contrasting reports of his character. One is that he is all shy politeness and the other is that he's a bit of a party animal.

Kate Hardcatle (Katherine Kelly) who's being lined up to marry Marlow likes the sound of the wild Marlow but not the meek one so she determines to disguise herself in such a way as to bring out his wild side.

It all gets a bit more complicated when Kate's laddish and ale-house loving brother Tony (David Fynn) tricks Marlow and his companion Hastings (John Heffernan) into thinking the his potential future father-in-law's home is an inn. Cue lots of inappropriate behaviour. 

She Stoops To Conquer is well done, silly, fun. There are some fantastically OTT performances, some lovely little musical interludes between scene changes and gorgeous stone hearth complete with crackling fire to make this a lovely cosy winter evening at the theatre.

I'm going to give it four stars. It runs at the Olivier Theatre in rep until March 28 and you can see some production shots here on What's On

The performance I saw was a preview and the running time was a good 20 minutes longer than what is estimated in the programme - I guess we all laughed longer than they were anticipating.


Can't see a direct link but Sophie Thompson was in Clybourne Park with Martin Freeman who was in Sherlock with Andrew Scott who was in Cock with Mr W. And a similar Andrew Scott link comes through John Heffernan who was in After The Dance with Benedict Cumberbatch. But possibly the closest link is Harry Hadden-Paton who was Sienna Miller's husband in Flare Path and Mr W played her girlfriend in the film Layer Cake.