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Friday 28 July 2017

Review: She Stoops To Conquer @ Brighton Open Air Theatre

This production of She Stoops To Conquer, mounted by Brighton Little Theatre, is a delightful rendering of Oliver Goldsmith's wildly ridiculous 1773 comedy.
Photo by Miles Davies

Mr. Hardcastle (an excellent Robert Nicholls) is a blustering old-fashioned windbag of a country gent, eager to marry his daughter off to Marlow, the son of a friend. 

Thanks to the merry meddling of his stepson Tony Lumpkin (Nik Balfe), the visiting would-be suitor and his friend Hastings mistake Hardcastle's house for an inn. And so the confusion begins.

With a sparse set and the sky above, I sometimes longed for a more intimate setting (the production has transferred from Brighton Little Theatre where it was all wood panels and portraits on the wall). 

However, the extra room at the BOAT allows for some wonderful expansions - a lovely period dance makes full use of the stage (choreographed by Patti Griffiths, who also plays Mrs Hardcastle and is responsible for a roster of wigs from the accurate to the fantastic), some lively chases round the stage and some very effective depth of movement.

Special mention must go to Gina Jamieson as MIss Neville, who lit up the stage every time she appeared as Hastings' fiance, and Aimee Tyas as Miss Hardcastle, who gave some depth and individuality to their characters, keeping up with the men in wit and humour. 

Paul Morley as Marlow and Ciaran O'Connor as Hastings were excellent - the befuddled Marlow reminding me of the great Graham Chapman in his switch from tongue-tied suitor to suave seducer.

Under Felicity Clements direction, and with the addition of a witty prologue and epilogue by Julia Goss (delivered by O'Connor and Frankie Knight as the delightfully named Pimple the Maid), the convolutions of the plot remained clear (often so muddled with revivals of 18th century comedy). 

Costumes were, as ever with Brighton Little Theatre, perfect, and music composed by Michael James was on the button.

All in all, She Stoops... is a fun, rumbustious play given a joyous freedom outdoors. It's remarkable to reflect that this Georgian play can still provoke belly-laughs from a modern audience.

She Stoops To Conquer at Brighton Open Air Theatre till Sunday 30th July 2017. CLICK HERE for more info.

by: Gary Cook




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