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She Stoops To Conquer

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
There’s a wonderful curtain-raiser that opens out Birmingham Rep’s touring revival of Goldsmith’s classic Restoration romp that would be quite wrong to let slip here. All that can be revealed is that a brand new prologue adds contemporary zest to what follows as well as giving hope to every tongue-tied galoot who ever fell head over heels for someone not just smarter and prettier than him, but can speak in verse to boot.

As charming an opening as this is, it only partially tallies with the Disneyesque diorama of chez Hardcastle, where Colin Baker and Liza Goddard’s powder-puffed guardians are attempting a blind date for daughter Kate with local well-heeled beau Charlie. Not that it matters, because once Jonathan Broadbent’s pint-sized Tony Lumpkin spins an imaginary world into play, Jonathan Munby’s production is a veritable jig of a romance, which in the main moves beyond the bland niceties with which it’s normally played today.

Baker and Goddard are quite happy sending themselves up with giddy abandon while the youngsters do all the real work in an irresistibly handsome affair that never grates with over-friendliness. As is usually the case, it’s the female players such as Annie Hemingway’s Constance who get the better of things.

If the airy English folksiness of a marvellous three-piece band comes over all Jam and Jerusalem at times, it nevertheless points up the play’s bawdy roots. It doesn’t quite succeed, simply because such a Brummie-accented approach only applies to those below stairs and those pretending to be of their ilk. This nevertheless brings into focus Charlie’s lily-livered terror of treating women as his equal, as Dorothea Myer-Bennett’s delightful Kate makes abundantly clear.

The Herald, February 14th 2008

ends

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