Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Exuberance, high humour and good spirits.

She Stoops to Conquer

Mappa Mundi / Torch Theatre / Theatr Mwldan , Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan & Touring , April-26-09
She Stoops to Conquer by Mappa Mundi / Torch Theatre / Theatr Mwldan “Humour at present seems to be departing from the stage.” This was Oliver Goldsmith writing in 1773; not so, on the evidence of Mappa Mundi’s roisterous production of his comedy of the same year.

“She Stoops to Conquer” is in fact not as funny as its reputation would have it. It does not have the farcical propulsion which Goldoni gave to his comedy successes. But if it is a single joke comedy it is still a pretty good one. Under Peter Doran’s careful direction, from the opening harpsichord to the last dance, Mappa Mundi carry it off with verve.

It is not the style of the company to treat classic texts as untouchable holy writ- the prologue and epilogue are dropped here- but there is no stinting on the look of it. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones’ costume design, created by first and second year students at Coleg Morgannwg, is all lace and gorgeous crimson and purple satins.

Secondly, Goldsmith’s text has the linguistic panache that is the characteristic of the Irish literary tradition. After an abortive coach ride of flight Mrs Hardcastle confesses herself “stuck fast in a slough, jolted to a jelly.” Liam Tobin’s role as hearty Mr Hardcastle is to spend much of the play at a near-explosive pitch of indignation but he still has to master lines like being “astonished at the deliberate intrepidity of his assurance.” Edward Harrison’s swaggering tease of a Tony Lumpkin employs a “circumbendibus” among his bag of tricks. Kate, in her guise as a servant, protests against her other self being treated “in this obstropalous manner”, a word that Goldsmith made up.

The pleasure in the playing runs right across the cast of nine. With her peacock feathers, her piled-high hair, her chalk-white face, her blush and beauty spots Kathryn Dimery’s Mrs Hardcastle is a squawking fright. Keiron Self’s socially timorous Charles Marlow takes deep hyper-ventilating breaths to prepare himself for his romantic interview. In contrast Richard Nichols’ Hastings is all urbane calculation.

Interestingly, much of the plot subterfuges are driven by the two younger women, Lynne Seymour’s purposeful Constance and Mali Tudno Jones’ role-shifting Kate Hardcastle. Intelligence and assured knowingness flash across her face.

Lastly, this is Mappa Mundi and some mappamundian touches, if such an adjective exists, are guaranteed. A moon the size of the Dreamworks motif descends for the garden scene. A called-for bush magically materialises, courtesy of a moving fireplace stone. A front row audience couple first samples Squire Hardcastle’s punch and then later gets to stand in, silently, as a pair of offstage drunken servants. It is all done with exuberance, high humour and good spirits. And in a week of near unparallelled gloom, that is no small thing.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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