Christopher Walker reviews She Stoops to Conquer

The tiny Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond has long been on theatre aficionados’ radar.

Under Paul Miller, previously the National Theatre’s star director, it went from strength to strength.

When Paul moved on, I feared things might deteriorate. But Tom Littler, the creative power behind the Jermyn Street theatre has ridden to the rescue.

The Orange Tree is dedicated to “rediscovering the plays of the past,” something much neglected at present. And his revival of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer fits this mission well.

It is a star-studded production let by Freddie Fox and Greta Scacchi, both of whom are excellent.

Robert Mountford (Hastings), Freddie Fox (Charles Marlow)

The plot concerns a pair of London beaus, Charles Marlow (Freddie) and George Hastings (Robert Mountford), who end up in the muds of Gloucestershire in search of two young ladies.

Kate Hardcastle (Tanya Reynolds) and her spikey friend Constance (a well-cast Sabrina Bartlett) are only too willing to be wooed, but need to get around Kate’s stepmother (Greta).

And also to overcome Marlow’s painful shyness with ladies of his own class. He only wants to bed serving girls.

The solution is for Kate herself to play a bar maid – hence she “stoops to conquer.”

Tanya Reynolds (Kate Hardcastle), Freddie Fox (Charles Marlow) – credit Marc Brenner

Tom Littler sensibly updates the action, and some of the language, to the 1930s.

The Orange Tree transforms well into a PG Wodehouse country house at Christmas, thanks to Anett Black and Neil Irish. Cue some chic frocks for Ms. Scacchi and the girls.

This is a comedy, and the laughs are brought out well by Tom’s firm direction and the talented cast.

Especially Richard Derrington playing the drunken hick butler Diggory, and the estimable veteran David Horovitch as Kate’s father Mr Hardcastle. The two of them cross swords over the drinks trolley.

Guy Hughes and Community Company

An unexpected additional highlight in this glorious cast is Guy Hughes, as Mrs Hardcastle’s son by her first marriage – Tony Lumpkin.

Also a great comic. Though I wasn’t sure about the Director’s decision to make Lumpkin a bumpkin, and his mother to boot.

In a play that is all about class this was confusing.

A fun evening.



Picture: Greta Scacchi (Mrs Hardcastle) – Picture credits: Marc Brenner

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