Vancouver Playhouse

She Stoops to Conquer (or The Mistakes of a Night) by Oliver Goldsmith

Most Enjoyable Production

by Jane Penistan

There is no mistake. By the Visiting Directors Programme sponsored by Wolverton Securities, Christopher Newton returns to the Playhouse to direct this well known and well loved eighteenth century comedy. He has assembled a cast of actors from across the country and gives the audience an enjoyable evening of laughter and fun.

Dressed in eighteenth century costumes designed by William Schmuck, the actors assume the style of movement and speech generally associated with this period. The only members of the cast who have trouble with their clothes are Mr. Hardcastle's servants (played by Thomas Grant, Duncan Stewart and Anthony E.Ingram) who are brought in from the field and barn to become household lackeys and find their new white gloves and gold braided uniforms as difficult as their unaccustomed indoor duties. Charles Marlow (Jeff Meadows) and George Hastings (Mike Wasko) are elegant in top boots, full skirted travelling coats, white breeches, ruffled shirts and powdered wigs. The elaborate wigs and full crinolines of Mrs. Hardcastle (Wendy Thatcher), Kate Hardcastle (Jane Perry) and Constance Neville, (Katey Wright) are beautifully managed. The contrast between the city gentleman and the old fashioned country squire is clearly defined in the attire of Sir Charles Marlow (Marek Wiedman) and Mr Hardcastle (Michael Ball). The shirts and culottes of the villagers at the local hostelry distinguish them from the gentry, and Tony Lumpkin (Rick Dobran) an impecunious gentleman, is a misfit, as his jacket and breeches, tricorn hat and sparse wig testify.

But clothes alone will not distinguish a character. Goldsmith gave each dramatis persona a personality, which the actors in this production realize fully. Michael Ball's pater familias and country squire is a benevolent if irascible gentleman. His wife considers herself hard done by in her rural existence, and is petulant and mercenary. Her attempts to appear genteel in the presence of the company from London are amusing. This is a very well presented character. Both Kate and her cousin Constance are young ladies in search of husbands and conspire to help each other achieve her ambition.

Playing second fiddle to the charismatic Kate is not the easiest role, but Katey Wright manages this well, while Kate shines, especially in her encounters with Marlow. As a man as unsure of himself as Marlow, Jeff Meadows is more successful as the assured man of the world than as the bashful visitor. As his companion, Hastings, Mike Wasko has assurance and humour and gives a convincing performance. Tony Lumpkin, the contriver of the plot to embarrass the gentry from London and be revenged on his mother and step-father, enjoys himself. Bullied by his mother, tolerated by his step-father and addressed as squire by the villagers, Rick Dobran never overplays the clown.

This is a most enjoyable, well directed, well acted production, but one does question the scarcity of furniture and lack of a maid in the Hardcastle establishment. This barely detracts from the overall excellence of the show.