Volume 93, Issue 62
Thursday, Janurary 20, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Grand play conquers audiences
Photo by James Hockings
IF YOU THINK I EAT TOO MANY CHOCOLATE BARS, LOOK AT MY GODDAMN HUSBAND! Wendy Thatcher and Michael Ball star in the Grand Theatre's production of She Stoops to Conquer, running until Jan. 29.
By Brad Lister
Many masterpieces meet a fate of obscurity, simply due to time. After sitting on bookshelves for centuries, works can gather the dust of irrelevance, or, at the very least, lose their vigour.
But wait, there is a pause. Oliver Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer has been around for over two centuries, yet it still has the ability to charm and entertain.
London's Grand Theatre is offering audiences a chance to discover exactly how with their current production of Goldsmith's timeless effort, running until Jan. 29.
She Stoops to Conquer is typical of 18th century drama, ripe with farcical scenarios, colourfully comedic characters and romance. The story centres on the Hardcastle home outside of London, England where Richard Hardcastle lives with his second wife Dorothy, daughter Kate, step-son Anthony Lumpkin and niece Constance Neville.
The action begins when young Charles Marlow and friend, George Hastings, arrive as guests at the home, with hopes of courting Kate and Constance.
Foiling Marlow and Hasting's aspirations, however, is a practical joke played by Anthony he misinforms the gentlemen that the Hardcastle home is actually an inn and Mr. Hardcastle is an innkeeper who thinks himself a gentleman. With that, the comic hijinks ensue to the delight of the audience.
As needed for the success of any story dependent on comedic mishap, the dramatic timing of all the actors is well paced. This is especially true in the second act, when all the setups begin to unravel and the fun in this production explodes.
Unfortunately, this is also where the weaknesses lie in director Christopher Newton's production. The play ultimately suffers from an overly stiff acting style, which stifles the humorous potential of the script.
While much of the acting demonstrated substantial talent, including efforts by Michael Ball, Wendy Thatcher and others, they could have worked with the action much better. One got the sense the actors and actresses are still only getting used to the material.
Despite these shortcomings, some standout performances still emerged. Thatcher, a Shaw Festival veteran, really gives her gusto in the role as Mrs. Hardcastle. She gives a full and free performance as a woman who believes herself to be the height of fashion although her costuming is actually ridiculous and congratulations should go to costume designer William Schmuck for helping to create such an eccentric character.
Schmuck deserves acknowledgment for the rest of his fine work in the show as well. The audience constantly cooed over his elaborate and fitting designs, as well as set designer David Robert's 18th century country home.
Overall, She Stoops to Conquer definitely provides a solid night of theatre. The show could only stand to be enhanced, however, if the performers could loosen up and let Goldsmith's fantastic prose do all the work.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000