Saddleworth Players

She Stoop to Conquer – review

by James Sheard

Saddleworth Players bring Oliver Goldsmith's play alive in the Millgate Theatre. The play is set in rural Lancashire, which is really brought home by the wonderful acting and entirely convincing Lancashire accent of Helen Dawson. I tried to categorise the play; a parody? a farce? a pantomime? The truth is, it’s a mixture of all these things, either way it’s funny, with some great word play; we enjoyed it.

The basis of the play are complex layers of misunderstanding which get in the way of that all important happy ending (or is it a happy ending?), not dissimilar to Wodehouse. It has interesting things to say about the attitudes of men towards women, people’s attitude to money and social inferiors which are still relevant today. But let’s not get too heavy, those, perhaps more serious messages, are pretty well hidden within the commotion.

Tony Wright (Hardcastle) has great stage presence; he set the play up excellently and reminded me of the long-suffering, if weak-minded, Mr Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. We particularly enjoyed a scene where he and Peter Dignan (Sir Charles Marlow) were ‘mucking about’, sticking their heads out of a curtain. Liz Travis (Mrs Hardcastle) and Andrew Wood (Tony Lumpkin) were definitely the closest to pantomine with their larger-than-life characters. That said, they were no pantomime dames, they were considerably more nuanced parts than that label would suggest.

Over all this is a top class production, cleverly thought through and as a whole it worked. The play may have been written more than 200 years ago but the jokes and the language have not aged and are entirely accessible to a modern audience. I suspect this is as a result of tweaks made to the original by Director, Jon Comyn-Platt. So if you want a good evening's entertainment I recommend you come to the Millgate Theatre in Delph and enjoy ‘She Stoops to Conquer’.

James Sheard, May 30, 2016