She Stoops to Conquer

Wed 30th May – Sat 2nd June 2012

reviews

Xandra Burns

at 08:15 on 31st May 2012

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We are greeted in the intimate corner of Trinity Garden by a cheerful 18th century soundtrack and an array of wooden garden chairs facing a very small stage space dominated by a sofa and armchair. The play begins with a Prologue that features a sobbing Mr Woodward (Geroge Ferguson), mourning the death of the Comic Muse. Many of the actors sport extravagant wigs, and all of the men are in tights and britches. Immediately the tone is bright, light-hearted, and quick-paced, and immediately it is clear that this play is not one to watch for its true depiction of reality, but for its sheer ridiculousness - it is very, very funny.

The story follows two couples in the making, and focuses on two lost "pompous Londoners" (Charles Marlow and George Hastings, played by Thomas Olver and Nick Fanthorpe) who mistake Mr Hardcastle's home for an inn. Coincidentally, they were seeking the Hardcastles' in the first place, as Marlow is a suitor to Miss Kate Hardcastle. Comedy and chaos ensue, and while the story's progression and conclusion is unlikely to surprise anyone, the scenes themselves are lively, entertaining, and guaranteed to cause laughter. Admittedly, when I first read Goldsmith's play, I was not a fan. The Trinity Players' production has converted me somewhat, showing that this play is one that should be seen rather than read. If "She Stoops to Conquer" is on your reading list (whether personal, or set by your tutor for Paper 6…), do not miss this opportunity to see a production that enhances Goldsmith's script with true theatricality.

It is clear that Director Howard Coase has done his part well. Dialogue and movement is planned and executed effectively, as the actors always seem to be in motion, making the show fly by in much less time than actually goes by. As soon as the actors exit, another enters immediately, contributing to the rapid pace, and rarely leaving the audience staring at an empty stage.

The cast is fantastic, both as individuals and as an ensemble. While all deserve praise, the star of the show is Maude Morrison as Mrs Hardcastle. Her voice on its own, a precise demonstration of droll, is enough to call her performance spectacular, and when joined by her purposeful actions, popping eyes, and gaping mouth, completes the ideal comedic female. Her Mrs Hardcastle resembles a marionette doll with repeated expressions and tones that quickly become her signature - by the end of the play her entrance prompts a buzz of anticipation from the audience - yet these actions are never tiresome, remaining fresh and revitalized throughout. It is worth seeing this production for her performance alone.

The humor of "She Stoops to Conquer" lies in its opposite extremes, with characters suddenly switching moods or identities. This is done so successfully that by the time our heroine Miss Kate Hardcastle (Sara Ahmed) actually "stoops to conquer" by pretending to be a simple barmaid, Ahmed's performance is unfortunately anticlimactic. Her two roles, that of Kate and of the barmaid, are hardly distinguishable, except for a comedic introduction to the disguise in which she attempts to attract Marlow's attention with exaggerated sensuality.

The rest of the play is good fun, although perhaps confusing at first. It is essential to understand that the second scene takes place in a tavern, rather than the Hardcastle's home, in order to set up Marlow and Hastings' confusion, yet there is no indication that this scene takes place in a different structure than the first, making this crucial plot point difficult to follow. Nonetheless, once the plot is clear, it is easy to sit back and let the comedy sparkle - there is never a dull moment.

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