Review: She Stoops to Conquer at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans

PUBLISHED: 11:58 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 18:43 22 May 2017

She Stoops To Conquer at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Anne Frizell]

She Stoops To Conquer at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans [Picture: Anne Frizell]

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She Stoops to Conquer has opened at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. Madeleine Burton reviews the latest Company of Ten production

It would be fair to say that performances of Oliver Goldsmith’s masterpiece are conquering the audiences at the Abbey Theatre.

Although She Stoops to Conquer first appeared on the stage nearly 250 years ago, the Company of Ten managed to bring a freshness and humour to the play which was captivating throughout.

Thankfully director Roger Scales, a self-confessed long-time fan of the play, did not attempt to ‘update’ it by bringing it into modern times.

Instead he concentrated on characterisation and making the comedy as relevant to current audiences as it was when it first appeared in 1771.

Played out on a terrific Company of Ten set, She Stoops to Conquer relies on mistaken identity like so many dramas of the time.

Only this time, the confusion arose more from two of the characters’ belief that they were in an inn rather than the country house to which they had been invited.

That produced plenty of memorable scenes, not least when Marlow – an excellent performance from Paul Spruce – first met his intended, Emma Hardcastle, and collapsed into insecurity and mangled words.

The contrast when he saw her later and assumed she was a serving wench was extremely well-handled by both Paul and Krystle Hall, an engaging Emma.

David Powell as Mr Hardcastle was a hoot – a man of integrity and hospitality bemused by the way his guests were treating his home.

And as he launched into tales from the past, clearly a source of great disinterest to Marlow and his friend Hastings, played confidently by Nathanael Spalding, it demonstrated that even after 250 years, human nature never changes.

Emma Watson was a lively Miss Neville and Matthew Hunter’s Tony Lumpkin was everything that the name of the character suggested.

Nobody could be in any doubt that he had been spawned by the highly-strung and often hysterical Mrs Hardcastle, played by Leonie Thompson.

It was good to see the Abbey Theatre so full on a Tuesday night, and a largely new young cast take the stage so proficiently.

She Stoops to Conquer runs at the Abbey Theatre until this Saturday, May 20, and tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

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