SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
at the Olivier Theatre
Goldsmith's classic comedy is given a glorious revival in Jamie Lloyd's assured production at the Olivier. In a superb, solid setting [Designer, Mark Thompson] lit by candles and firelight, the Mistakes of a Night unfold faultlessly and hilariously.
The pace is helped by lively, wordless music sung by a large ensemble of servants, and by the Olivier stage, which has the Inn and the Hardcastle House as two sides of the coin, and both vanishing in a wonderful moment to reveal the misty, wooded garden.
Duped and deluded, Marlow and Hastings arrive at the rustic house. Harry Hadden-Paton is physically impressive as Marlow, tongue-tied with his intended, but something of an animal with the "barmaid" [Katherine Kelly]. John Heffernan's Hastings is awkward, soft-hearted and constantly funny as he woos his Constance [Cush Jumbo], succeeding only with the connivance of David Fynn's amiable, free-spirited Lumpkin. He was also very touching in his moment of "disappointment and despair".
The Hardcastles are uproariously done by Steve Pemberton and Sophie Thompson; Mrs H is superb as she apes what she supposes London speech. Like everyone else in a marvellous cast, they are encouraged to mug their asides, push their gags to the back of the circle. "This is over-acting, young gentleman," says Hardcastle to his prospective son-in-law, and it's hard not to agree. But jolly good fun, an endlessly entertaining production which remains true to the original while catering to modern tastes in comedy.