Writer: Oliver Goldsmith
Director: Conall Morrison
Reviewer: Ciara Murphy
Christmas at the Abbey Theatre comes this year in the form of the fantastically farcical. Oliver Goldsmith’s classicShe Stoops to Conqueris a whirlwind of music, energy and ludicrous comedy.
As Mr and Mrs. Hardcastle prepare their country home to receive a potential suitor, son of a family friend Mr. Marlowe,for their daughter Kate, the young Mr. Marlowe and his comrade Mr. Hastings stumble upon a tavern, The Three Pigeons,searching for directions to the Hardcastle estate. Once there, they chance upon Mrs. Hardcastle’s mischevious son Tony Lumpkin who directs them towards the house under false pretences. Upon the gentlemen’s arrival a series of farcical encounters occur, the plot a clever and twisted tale of confusion, ill-manners and forbidden love. Goldsmith’s 18th century classic has endured the test of time, and for good reason, as the Abbey Theatre cast revives its traditional staging for a modern audience.
The backbone of this bountiful comedy is the hugely impressive set, designed by Liam Doona. The 18th century mansion setting looms vast and impressive over the action, its two story design allowing for a series of comic juxtapositions. For a farce such as this to truly succeed, the production must rely on a solid and functional set. The fast pace action, overlapping of storylines and pacey timing is only enhanced by Doona’s expert design. As the mad cap collection of characters blunder and sneak through the space, it is only a matter of time before it all falls asunder.
The ensemble of actors and musicians are expertly directed by Conall Morrisson. The timing of the action is precise and fluid, allowing for Goldsmith’s quick paced action to be presented in a throughly believable, unbelievable, manner! The whole cast deliver solid performances but the quirky and belligerent Tony Lumpkin, played expertly by David Pearse, delivers a performance that is true comic genius. Pearse lumbers around the stage in a constant stupor, delivering a stellar performance, and keeping the audience in peals of laughter. The comic play off between the “impudent” young Mr. Marlowe, played by Marty Rea, and the utterly bamboozled Mr. Hardcastle, played by Jon Kenny, are so well performed that it’s difficult to find flaw. Marion Dwyer’s portrayal of the cunning Mrs. Hardcastle contrasts well with the increasingly confused men of the house and her presence is strong and dominant onstage. Occasionally the performances come close to being overdone, but any indication of over-acting was easily forgiven as She Stoops to Conquer delivers on its brief scene after scene.
What has one come to expect from Christmas at the Abbey Theatre? With an abundance of festive cheer, talent and good funShe Stoops to Conqueris just the ticket for this festive season.
Photo courtesy of the Abbey Theatre. Runs until January 31st.