Theatre Crit Essay
She Stoops to Conquer is a comedy of manners set in the 1770’s. Kate Hardcastle stoops to play the part of a barmaid to encourage her suitor. During his stay many tricks are played including the disguise of Mr Hardcastle’s house as an inn. The aims of the play are to show that marriage should be based on love not arrangements, to show that the ordinary things in life are the most important and to show that country folk may have better qualities than townspeople. In ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ there are many ways in which comedy is created, these include, tricks and deceits, disguises, peculiarities of character, the yokles (servants) and wit.
Many tricks are played in ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ which makes the audience laugh as the audience always knows when a trick is being played. The trick that starts the play off is in the Pub where Tony Lumpkin gives Marlow and Hastings very complicated directions to Mr Hardcastle’s house which he says is an inn. The audience giggles at this because they have already seen the house and know that it is not an inn. When Marlow and Hastings arrive at the ‘inn,’ the audience laughs at the way Mr Hardcastle is treated as a landlord/servant by Marlow and Hastings, they give him their boots and demand to see a menu.
During this Mr Hardcastle becomes more and more confused which is also rather funny. The audience knows all the way through the play that Mrs Hardcastle wants Tony and Connie to get married but the audience knows that neither Tony nor Connie love each other and have no intention to marry, but so that Mrs Hardcastle stays happy Tony and Connie trick her into thinking that they really love each other. The audience thinks that the difference between their actions and their words of love is quite funny so laugh again; the fact that Mrs Hardcastle has no idea of the trick also makes the audience laugh even more.
Near the end of the play there is a very funny scene in which Tony’s master plan is put into action. Tony told his mother (Mrs Hardcastle) that they were lost on the way home from taking Connie away and Mrs Hardcastle believes him but they are actually in the garden of their house. The set design also makes this scene funny as there is a bull’s head sticking through the bushes, which frightens Mrs Hardcastle; Mrs Hardcastles fear makes the audience laugh because we know what the head is.
The audience also laughs when Mr Hardcastle enters the scene the audience laughs because Mrs Hardcastle does not recognise him and throws herself at his feet and begs him to save her. The funniest part of this scene is when Mrs Hardcastle falls into the pond and she ends up soaked. All the tricks in the play make the audience laugh and add to the comedy because the audience always knows the truth. Tony then plays another deceitful trick when he tells Mrs Hardcastle to pretend that the jewels have been taken, which we know they have.
We laugh at her panic as she realises this, and find it even more amusing when Tony pretends to be playing along with it. The funniest part of the jewels trick though is the way it backfires; they are passed from one person to another before ending up with Mrs Hardcastle again. The many disguises in ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ also add to the comedy. The disguises include, Kate dressing as a barmaid to try and make Marlow like her, the audience giggles at how differently Marlow acts when he is with Kate the barmaid and ‘grand’ Kate.
When Marlow is with ‘grand’ Kate he is shy and stutters but when he is with Kate the barmaid he is no longer shy and is rather flirtatious. Even though the audience knew that the barmaid was Kate dressed up they could see why Marlow might think otherwise because Kate was well covered when he met her first and when she is pretending to be a barmaid she uses a different voice that makes her seem ‘inferior’ to him which makes him feel more comfortable. As part of Tony’s trick Mr and Mrs Hardcastle are unknowingly disguised as and Landlord and Landlady and are treated as inferior by Marlow and Hastings.
The audience finds this funny because The Hardcastle’s are ordered around and asked to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. People’s characters have many peculiarities in ‘She Stoops to Conquer. ‘ We smile and chuckle at Mr Hardcastle’s stories and old-fashioned views, as we do at Mrs Hardcastle’s foolish snobbery and how much she adores Tony. Kate’s convincing part as the barmaid is very mischievous, as is Tony’s overall character, both of which we laugh at.
Connie’s apparent love for Tony is also very amusing, as we know that this is not the case, and Marlow’s inability to speak to well-to-do ladies but to flirt madly with women of a lower social class than him is also very funny. The background characters of this play are the countrified yokel-type of folk, who are completely different to the main characters of the play. They are ignorant of manners and social graces, and things such as their shabby clothes and forced, over-the-top, straight-backed stances and fear of company are all very amusing.
In order to make the comedy in “She Stoops to Conquer” as convincing as possible, the actors had to be aware of all the good marks of acting out comedy in order to make the audience laugh. The characters entrances (and exits) were quick and the way they entered showed their feelings or their character an example of this is when Hastings and Marlow enter the pub with arms out (taking up a lot of space) and looking down their noses gave a good impression of their thoughts and feelings about such a place.
Mannerisms such as Marlow’s stammer we used to good effect, if slightly over-the-top, but this was necessary to emphasise changes in character. Any humorous lines were delivered strongly to the audience and words and phrases where emphasised by actions such as pointing and positioning, with the actors remaining silent when the audience laughed and then moving to show the audience that they now wanted to continue delivering lines.
The actors also kept eye contact with the audience and spoke to them rather than the other actors this made the audience feel that they were being involved with what was going on stage rather than just watching it, which was good because it made the audience laugh more than they would have without it. These appeared to be the only aspects comedy contained in “She Stoops to Conquer” and I thought that it was performed very well. The fast pace of a comedy was kept and the majority of the entrances and exits were fast. The scene changes were very quick so that the pace of the comedy was kept.
I believed that the actors suited their roles very well and any comic moments or scenes were acted in the most suitable way, whether it be naturalistic or other. Overall, I found the play very enjoyable and funny, as did it seem the rest of the audience did. There was tremendous laughter at the many lines and humorous situations that were shown on the stage and it seemed to me that everyone enjoyed the performance and for this reason, I believe that the performance of “She Stoops to Conquer” by the National Theatre Touring Company at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham was a great success.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 July 2017
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