An overall very amusing well-acted play, The Abbey Theatre’s production of She Stoops to Conquer is a charming production. Most of the acting is splendid and hilarious and the unexpected music chimes in well with the play. The play proves to the audience that you never grown out of laughing at people falling over furniture.
The play is set in a large house in the Irish countryside. Between family and royalty we are presented with a tale of mismatched couples and Irish humour. Goldsmith’s original play is respected and added to in this fine rendition. The Abbey’s decision to set the play in Ireland works exceptionally, adding a great deal of humour to the plot. It seems that no stone is overturned in finding jokes in this play. This is not to say that jokes are butchered but it is hard to recall a theatre audience laughing so much before. The facial expressions of each actor and the traits of the characters combine with unexpected tunes and twists to make for great comedy.
The play, despite starting with a great song, seems slow to begin. However, it soon gains momentum and humour. It seems that we laugh at every character at one stage or another.
The acting is in most places excellent though some of the strong accents can be difficult to understand at times. Caroline Morahan suits the role of Miss Hardcastle being able to play the fake barmaid and the wealthy daughter. Nevertheless, her acting can seem a bit hard to believe at times as she feigns shock and awe. This does, however, lend itself to the style of the play and is made up for in her loving and confident expressions in the final scenes.
This production features a lot more slapstick humour than you might expect when you first see the attractive setting and the respectable, upper class, old-fashioned clothing of the characters. Marty Rea as young Marlowe has a great gift for going from confident, poised gentleman to blubbering fool in seconds. David Pearse plays the character of Tony Lumpkin expertly, adding more humour to the character than might be found in the script. The servants are all hilarious and whilst in the background always seem to grab the attention of the audience and keep it.
The actors make full use of the stage, their costumes and every piece of furniture. How each actor and the backstage staff know exactly where to be and to put each piece of furniture at each moment while the play carries on seamlessly is beyond me.
One of the most unexpected parts of this play is the music with many of the actors playing music on stage. You never know when it’s coming but the stumbling servants can certainly surprise you with an excellent, well-choreographed tune.
This is an excellent play that I would recommend everyone see. You don’t need to know the original story to follow the completely hilarious and intriguing plot and characters. As usual the Abbey has made a strong effort to read between the lines of the script to create whole characters with a host of intriguing characteristics.