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She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith
Heritage Theatre
DVD £18.99 Video £15.99
(2004)

The latest Heritage Theatre DVD to land on the BTG doorstep features Max Stafford-Clark's version of She Stoops to Conquer, which was a joint production between his Out Of Joint Company and the National Theatre.

This recording took place towards the end of the production's life in front of a live audience at The Theatre Royal, Bath last year.

As is pointed out in the 10 minute documentary that accompanies the recording, Max Stafford Clark is best known for hard-edged modern work, which makes the choice of the 230 year-old comedy of confusion and mistaken identity, intriguing. Apart from the use of modern mannerisms, the director steeps his audience in another age.

The country bumpkins, Mr and Mrs Hardcastle played by the likeable Ian Redford and the obnoxious (at least in character) Jane Wood, and the lady's son, Tony, all have almost impenetrable Black Country accents and country ways. Through clarity of speech, they still manage to remain intelligible throughout.

Hardcastle's daughter, Kate, played with much good humour by Monica Dolan, has to use Received English until she doubles as a barmaid to attract the schizophrenic Young Charles Marlowe. Christopher Staines plays this man who cannot look a lady in the eye but give him a barmaid and he resembles a dog on heat.

The slow courtship between these two is compared with a much quicker version between Stephen Beresford's Hastings and Fritha Goodey's Constance Neville. Their love has developed before the play starts and is only blocked by Mrs Hardcastle's meanness and ambitions for her son. Owen Sharpe is suitably bouncy as the immature wastrel, Tony, who has the last dozen laughs at his poor mother's expense.

It is great to be able see complete stage performances on DVD. There is an opportunity to replay key scenes and also to watch a performance in odd snatched moments rather than having to devote a whole evening to the theatre.

She Stoops to Conquer contains much comedy and, strangely, seems funnier on the screen than it did on the stage. In particular, Monica Dolan's subtleties and Mr Hardcastle's frustrations as depicted by Ian Redford really hit home in this medium.

"The Winter's Tale" can be bought through the BTG's Videoshop, in association with Heritage Theatre.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher