Review: She Stoops to Conquer
ABI BENNETT: ‘I hate to fall in the typical trap of the Cambridge reviewer and award a play three stars, but unfortunately this play fell into the typical Cambridge trap of being average.’
I hate to fall in the typical trap of the Cambridge reviewer and award a play three stars, but unfortunately this play fell into the typical Cambridge trap of being average. Like nearly all May Week shows, it was under-rehearsed and slightly lacking in what one could call ‘directional oomph’, however, there were some particularly entertaining performances, when the actors realised the aim of May Week is to entertain, and not achieve groundbreaking interpretations of the classics.
Micky Alexander, as Mr Hardcastle, had obviously realised this, with his broad Yorkshire accent and exuberant stage presence having the audience in stitches every time he came on stage. However, his mastery of the Yorkshire accent presented problems for other members of the cast, resulting in an unsatisfactory blend of successful and unsuccessful attempts, with some just resorting to their usual clipped tones. Yet, I must commend Emily Parton, as Miss Hardcastle, for the ease with which she slipped between the two accents, despite my initial apprehension of her cut glass intonation, the way this was manipulated into a believable dramatic conceit was laudable. In fact, the only issue with Emily Parton’s performance was her glasses; a chunky black pair which were noticeably incongruous with the rest of her costume. Although this would usually be a pet hate for me, for only one performance, it would seem a little pointless to get contact lenses or a different pair.
In fact, the costumes as a whole belied the under rehearsed nature of the play; Mr Marlow’s and Mr Hastings’ cuffs and ruffs were fraying, and the overly dramatic hand gestures employed by both resulted in strands of thread spread across the stage. Equally, the girls’ underwear should have been better considered, in one case it was all too visible, and in another just not visible enough. They were lucky the lighting in Sidney’s Great Hall wasn’t as revealing as normal stage lighting.
The only performance which fell completely flat was that of Chris Page as Mr Hastings, who seemed alternately bored or strangely amused by the proceedings. Whether he is always so wooden, or whether this was due to the repercussions of yesterday (having spotted what appeared to be a Gold Wyverns wristband under his extravagant cuff) was not apparent.
Having read back over this review, it seems I have focused a lot on the negatives, and it would be unfair on the hard work of all involved to leave on that note. The audience, though meagre, enjoyed seeing their friends on stage, and surely that is the point of a May Week show, seeing your hungover friends parade around in a silly costume, struggling occasionally to remember their lines? Although not personally knowing any of the actors, I too enjoyed this production, because it just didn’t take itself too seriously.