She Stoops to Conquer, Taunton Thespians on tour

STOOPING to conquer is definitely the 2015 play of choice, and Mich­ael Gilbert’s touring production for Taunton Thespians is the most traditional, and hilarious, of the four I have seen in recent months.

The company performs at various locations in Somerset, and I caught Gold­smith’s classic comedy in a perfect setting, against the backdrop of the 16th century Dillington House. The whole idea of plot is that the Hardcastles live in a run- down stately pile that has taken on the appearance of an inn as it has evolved over the years.

Mr and Mrs Hardcastle, both on sec­ond marriages, have two child­ren, Tony Lumpkin and Kate Hard­castle. They are awaiting the arrival of Marlow, Hardcastle’s friend’s son, who is intended as Kate’s husband.

Marlow is an odd cove – tongue-tied with gentlewomen but a flirtatious braggart with servants. Kate likes the look of him, but quickly realises that she’ll have to dissemble if he’s ever going to court her.

At the same time, her step-brother Tony is pretending to court Const­ance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings.

Once Marlow is convinced that the Hardcastle home is an inn, the plots are woven thick and fast until the witty denouement.

The Thespians are lucky to have a versatile and talented company, led by Jane Edwards, again demonstrating her faultless comic timing as Mrs Hardcastle, Maat Ward as a marvellously naughty Tony and Reece Baker as the conflicted Hastings.

Charlotte Newman and Jasmine Green­wood are the perfect ages to play Kate and Constance, and Brian Lewis is a loveable Hardcastle. Martine Davies steps in with pana­che as a masculine and dandified Hastings.

It’s a terrific production, full of invention and fun, using minimal props for ease of touring.  Catch it if you can – at Somerset Museum on Wednesday 22nd, Fyne Court on 23rd, Lower Henlade on 24th and the last night West Bagborough on Saturday 25th July.


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