She Stoops To Conquer. Northern Broadsides at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

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Gilly Tompkins as Mrs Hardcastle. Production photograph by Nobby Clark.

I am not a big fan of restoration drama. With one or two exceptions (like The Beaux Stratagem) I think it needs a good kicking before it can really work for a modern audience. Thankfully Northern Broadsides are just the company to do that service for Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer. Just lately they have been producing some first rate, award winning, theatre and they have a full blooded, honest house style which I admire very much. This production was not one of their best, but I am judging them by their own very high standards now after watching them for so long. It had all their trademarks, music, dance, speed and fun and while one or two of the performances were a bit too over the top for me there was a lot to enjoy. It worked particularly well in the round at the Stephen Joseph where the audience were in clear view and easy for the characters to talk to directly.

Strangely the most over the top performance of them all didn’t worry me a bit. Jon Trenchard has such confidence and bravura that he can get away with being as loud as he likes and his Tony Lumpkin could have come straight out of a cartoon of the period. I liked Hannah Edward as Kate Hardcastle but the character (not the performance) was rather overwhelmed by all the grandstanding going on around it and would have come over more strongly in a calmer, more traditional production. It is the title role so that was a bit of a shame. The pick of the performances for me, came from Oliver Gomm as Young Marlowe. He allowed me to completely believe in him even while he was playing his silliest moments and that is the age old key to playing farce. I also really enjoyed Rob Took’s contribution, a series of small parts played with great relish and I hope that they give him more to do in the future. It takes real skill to get a laugh on an entrance simply by being there again, in a new role, as he did at one point.

Jessica Worrall has done a great job on the design and I loved the costumes, all animal print and big wigs. Conrad Nelson has directed for pace and maybe sometimes with too broad a brush, but it zips along and we are in no danger of being bored so I am not complaining too much. I had fun. Last time I saw it I don’t remember it being this much fun- even with David Essex, Donald Sinden and Miriam Margolyes to help it along.

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