Posts Tagged ‘Video’

Last week I went to see a play. At a movie theater. London’s National Theatre came up with a very high-tech way to bring their shows to a broader audience, many of whom live abroad. Their plays are broadcasted live in a number of theaters around the world. Last year I went to see their production of Frankenstein which was absolutely mind blowing!

This year I missed a few of their shows, but last Thursday managed to get a ticket to Oliver Goldsmith’s  She Stoops to Conquer. And what can I say? It was hilarious! And I don’t mean a chuckle here and there or a pleasant smile at a witticism. I mean out-loud, roaring laughter for 3 hours straight.

The story is as follows, a wealthy country gentleman Hardcastle (Steve Pemberton) wants to marry his daughter Kate (Katherine Kelly) to the son of an old friend. But because of a  practical joke played  by his stepson Tony Lumpkin (David Fynn), he is mistaken for an innkeeper and his daughter is take for a barmaid by the perspective bridegroom Marlow (Harry Hadden-Paton). This turns to be a blessing in disguise because while Marlow is incredibly shy around upper-class women, he’s quite the charmer with girls of a different sort. As Hardcastle  grows more and more incensed by the rude behavior of his prospective son-in-law, his daughter is quite taken with her confused suitor. At the same time, her cousin Constance (Cush Jumbo) is trying to claim her dowry and run away with her sweetheart Hastings (John Heffernan), as Mrs. Hardcastle (Sophie Thompson) schemes to marry her off to her son Tony. Chaos ensues.

Hastings (John Heffernan) surrounded by servants who all want to give him boots

This is definitely one of those plays that has aged well. Even though it was written in the 18th century, it feels as fresh and as funny today as it must have been two hundred years ago. Director Jamie Lloyd went for very broad humor. Every one is hamming it up to the max; there is no subtle acting in sight.

Hardcastle (Steve Pemberton) and his daughter Kate (Katherine Kelly)

Kate is a wonderful heroine – funny, saucy and resourceful.  ‘Stoops to conquer’ really defines her personality; Kate is very much a negotiator. She gives a little to get a lot both with her father and her groom. Marlow, on the other hand, makes for a wonderful neurotic (did they have neurosis in the 18th century?) hero. He’s a bumbling fool around high-class ladies, but quite the rake among the simple folk. Sophie Thompson, whom I loved in Emma, plays a wonderful Mrs. Hardcastle. She speaks in a strange bellowing accent, probably imitating what she thinks is a way a fine lady in London would speak, and has the most peculiar gestures and facial expressions. Tony Lumpkin is a lovable buffoon. But the person who really steals the show is John Heffernan as Hastings. He is sweet, devoted to his beloved, a bit dopey and naive but very kind and generous. To me he was the emotional core of the whole play; and with his almost equally dopey, though determined sweetheart Constance, in many scenes outshone the main couple.

I was really glad that they decided to go with an 18th centurylook for the play. First, because I love 18th century costumes. And second, because this play just doesn’t need to be updated. Though the theme can easily translate into a modern setting, it works just as well as a historical play.

Rich heiress Constance Neville (Cush Jumbo)

The costumes were absolutely gorgeous! Everything from powdered bouffant of Mrs Hardcastle to the richly embroidered but distressed outfit of Tony Lumpkin to the exquisite dress worn by Constance made from sari fabric and decorated with tiny bells, looked absolutely perfect. I can write more about the costumes, but I feel like they deserve their own post.

What are they doing back there?

I often get very uppity about classical plays being remade for a modern audience with excessive amount of sexual innuendos and nudity, but unlike many other productions, She Stoops to Conquer really works as a bawdy comedy probably because it was written as one. There is no shortage of cleavage on display or very suggestive gestures and poses, but they work very well and only add to the general atmosphere of confused and rowdy fun.

If you haven’t seen this play already, I highly recommend you check it out.


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The sassy gay friend is something of a comedy cliche these days. A rom-com heroine just has to have a well-dressed gay friend whose life revolves around making her feel better about herself and giving excellent fashion tips.

Carrie and her ultimate fashion accessory, Stanford. Sex and The City

So that got me thinking, what if Shakespeare lived today and, in the spirit of the times, gave his female leads a sassy gay friend. Not the comedic heroines – there’s already plenty of sass in Will’s comedies – no, I’m talking about the tragic ladies.

It seems that somebody at Second City Network was reading my mind because, lo and behold, here he is, the Sassy Gay Friend, dishing out some sound advice to Shakespeare’s main ladies.

Things could have turned out very differently if only Juliet had had a sassy gay friend.

And poor Ophelia could have been saved if only she took advice from – who else? – A Sassy Gay Friend

What about Desdemona? There would have been no smothering  if she had only listened to her Sassy Gay Friend

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Ah, poor Will. Publishers can be so difficult. Always trying to change that “just one little bit”, “just this one insignificant detail”. So tiresome. Sometimes it feels like they want to rewrite your whole work for you.

Well, at least he left us the gravediggers routine.


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