She Stoops To Conquer ★★★★ Guildford Shakespeare Company | June 17 - July 3, 2021


Outdoor productions are fraught with danger and a cold damp wind isn't conducive to the frothy fun of Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 comedy of manners. Nevertheless, with true British spirit, the show went on, and with enough summer sunshine radiating from the compact stage to almost overwhelm the weather. This play, which apparently had its basis in a real occurrence, isn't easy to bring off. However, by the excellent conceit of setting it in the 1930s, it worked remarkably well, thanks in part to Neil Irish's stylish designs. Amongst an excellent cast, James Sheldon and Tom Richardson shone as the Wodehouse-ian twits, Marlow and Hastings, garnering plenty of well-timed laughs. Sheldon was outstandingly good at differentiating between the boorish rake and the stammering lover. Tony Lumpkin is an especially complex character to make work but here the beautifully spoken Corey Montague-Sholay gave us particular enjoyment with his manipulative but totally naturalistic portrayal. Kate Hardcastle needs to dominate the stage, and Natasha Rickman did just that even as she 'stooped' to play the barmaid. Unforeseen circumstances gave us two Constances with Bea Svistunenko gamely covering in Act I for the excellent Rachel Summers. Sarah Gobran and, particularly, Robert Maskell worked well as the put-upon, and occasionally bedraggled Hardcastles, whilst Matt Pinches effervesced in a plethora of cameos. Tom Littler's jaunty production hardly put a foot wrong in a play which can be filled with pitfalls. Guildford Shakespeare Company must once again receive plaudits for not stooping or being conquered either by Goldsmith or by the elements.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Matt Pereira.

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