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She Stoops to Conquer

Published by: Kirstie Niland on 10th Sep 2014 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland

The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster

9th September

Northern Broadsides’ novel twist on She Stoops to Conquer opens with a noisy explosion of animal print and spectacular ginger wigs – and it’s non-stop fun from there.

This is a period comedy of manners with a contemporary twist. The excellently cast characters capture the 18th century humour perfectly, whilst clad in elaborate costumes of canary yellow and shocking pink.

And best of all, it’s been relocated to the North.

She_Stoops_artwork_lower_res (1).jpg

West Country accents are therefore redundant, making way for a bold and brash Mrs Hardcastle, whose portrayal by Gilly Tompkins has echoes of a Northern Barbara Windsor; and a fantastically bawdy Miss Neville played by Lauryn Redding. Then there’s Miss Hardcastle and the surprise Scouse accent she adapts to the audience’s delight when she stoops to conquer the shy Charles Marlow.

This classic romantic romp involves a rich countryman, Hardcastle, who wants his daughter Kate to marry his friend’s son, Charles Marlow; and Hardcastle's second wife who wants her son, Tony Lumpkin, to marry her niece, Constance Neville, in order to hang on to the family jewels. The problem is that Miss Neville has her sights set on Marlow’s friend, Hastings; and Marlow is too timid to woo Miss Kate Hardcastle. Meanwhile Tony Lumpkin and his mother are intent on stopping the course of true love run smoothly.

Director Conrad Nelson has done Oliver Goldsmith proud, with his talented ensemble of actor-musicians keeping us on our toes throughout. Scenes are punctuated with bursts of beautifully harmonised song accompanied by the piano, flute, violin and even a kazoo; and countless comedy interludes, including a simply hilarious pas de deux involving skipping and stags heads.

Jon Trenchard is a fabulously camp Tony Lumpkin in giraffe print with a pink cravat, and his costume and character blends beautifully with those of his flamboyant mother.

Hannah Edwards is plucky and forthright as Miss Hardcastle; and Guy Lewis as Hastings alongside Oliver Gomm as Marlow are both over the top and credible as the young men about town who are duped into thinking the Hardcastles’ home is a country inn.

Oliver Gomm’s twitching, awkward movements when faced with Miss Hardcastle make you cringe in all the right places, as does his jaunty gait when he thinks she is just a lowly barmaid.

Lauryn Redding and Jon Trenchard are a brilliant double act as the “kissing cousins”, with both of them inducing peals of laughter with a mere facial expression or movement.

The cleverly designed stage set creates a warm and inviting backdrop, with props, pillars and hidden doors providing some inventive opportunities for the cast to skip and flit around. The set changes are carried out by servants, and entrances and exits are slick, with cast members gliding on to the left as others glide off to the right.

Northern Broadsides’ first class production of mischief, mayhem and misunderstandings gains momentum brilliantly as it reaches its climax with an amusing bottle-wielding eruption from Howard Chadwick as Mr Hardcastle, a wailing, spread-eagled Mrs Hardcastle, and Marlow’s bewildered reaction to the big reveal:

 “Oh, the devil.”

Contrary to Mrs Hardcastle’s grumpy complaint that this was “but the whining end of a modern novel,” the grand musical finale is a spectacle in itself, with an extra loud round of applause for scene stealer Alan McMahon as the crossing dressing man servant.

However every single member of the cast deserves praise for this superb performance.

Long live love and romance. And Northern Broadsides.

She Stoops To Conquer (recommended for aged 12 plus) tours until December 13th, and is at The Dukes until September 13th. Tickets, £8-£18.50, are available from the box office on 01524 598500, or from




  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Kirstie. This sounds excellent.
  • Kirstie Niland
    by Kirstie Niland 3 years ago
    It was superb. Highly recommended!
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