Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer was first performed in 1773. After more than 240 years, Malcolm Galea – together with MADC – has taken the challenge of bringing the play to life for a Maltese audience.
The world of the play is reflective of a society that is very far from our own. The events of the piece take place during the course of a single night in the 1770s in an old-fashioned English West Country mansion occupied by the Hardcastle family. Thus, the play is very much a comedy of manners, in that it offers a look at the behaviours and relationships of the people who were part of the British upper classes at that time.
Despite such a society now being something of the distant past, many of the basic elements of the piece still work in today’s world. When love and misunderstandings are mixed together, it is almost always the case that comedy ensues. Be it in modern-day society or high-class British society, these ingredients never go stale.
However, it is then the direction and the actors themselves that must take the comedic elements and make them flourish on stage. I felt that the actors really pushed the caricatures that their characters embodied, and in doing so they were able to play with the farce and comedy of the piece. What is interesting is that despite the characters being written as very stereotypical and flat – as opposed to well-rounded – portraits of British upper class families, there were still several moments in the performance where the audience was made to feel for and sympathise with them to a certain extent.
Aesthetically, the set design and costumes were very detailed and well thought-out. These elements aided in drawing the audience into the style and period that the play is set in. I particularly enjoyed the use of the violin projections during the scene transitions, as it brought the classical into conversation with the contemporary in a small yet very effective way.
In terms of pacing, I did feel that Act One was slower than Act Two. Act One was full of dialogue that was somewhat necessary so that the audience understands the context and the situation of the piece they are watching. At first, the comedy was very much dependent on tongue-in-cheek humour, something that is very typical of the British sensibility. Then, once Act One set certain plot-points into motion, Act Two began to pick up pace as the comedy moved from the words of the characters to the situations that the characters found themselves in.
All in all, I think the team did a great job of taking on a piece that is very set in its time of writing, and still managing to make it comical and enjoyable. The actors really played off one another, and it was quite refreshing to see very experienced actors and actors that are still in the early stages of their careers coming together to create a performance for the audience to enjoy.
Starring the likes of Tina Rizzo, Andre Agius, Gianni Selvaggi, Giulia Gatt, Marylu Coppini, Stephen Oliver and Joe Depasquale among others, She Stoops to Conquer has now moved to the Manoel Theatre for its run from the 23rd to the 26th of March. Tickets for the show can be purchased HERE! Book now and for a night of laughter!
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