Theatre review: She Stoops to Conquer

Abbey Theatre

Theatre review: She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith’s play has not so much aged in the 241 years since it was a London hit as become a template.

There’s laughter of recognition in it, whether you’re familiar with the play, or simply at home in its farcical formula, as handed down via episodes of Frasier or Fawlty Towers.

The wealthy heir Charles Marlowe (Marty Rea) is travelling down the country (from London in the original, but here Dublin) to meet a possible match, the daughter of Mr Hardcastle (Jon Kenny), Kate, played by Abbey debutante Caroline Morahan.

He’s not happy about this – he can woo any lowly wench, but is somehow a jibbering wreck in front of women of his own class.

On the way, he and his companion Hastings (a game Rory Nolan) lose their way and come by an inn, The Three Pigeons.

The Pigeons is the local of Kate’s step-brother, Tony Lumpkin (David Pearse).

This mischievous Lumpkin sends the hapless pair to Hardcastle’s for the night, having them believe it is a guest house, rather than their final destination.

You can guess what follows – a very tangled web of perceived insults. misunderstanding, impersonation, marriage plots, and inheritance schemes.

It is a technically excellent play by Goldsmith.

As Wilde after him, he used his natural position as Anglo-Irish insider-outsider to create a subversive comic world in which no one is quite sure of where they stand.

The exits and entrances are exquisite in their of piling up of twists and complications, and ably accommodated by Liam Doona’s split-level set.

Director Conall Morrison’s approach is to pitch it at a hectic pace – attuned to modern sensibilities, certainly, but a challenge for the cast given Goldsmith’s verbosity.

They acquit themselves well from the point of view of exposition, but it is David Pearse who really shines, somehow finding space within the madness to fully inhabit the potential of his lines.

Morrison turns all asides and soliloquys into panto-style confidences between the audience and the fourth-wall-breaking players.

It’s a conceit possibly more fitting of the season than the source material, but a bad thing on a cold December night?

Oh no it isn’t.

Runs at the Abbey until January 31

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