SHE STOOPS to CONQUER by Oliver Goldsmith
Orchard Dene, Blewbury Thursday 19 July 2012
Although I have lived in the area for over 30 years, 25 of which have been in Upton, this was the first production by the Blewbury Players that I have ever seen. Being newly retired, and supposedly having more free time, I decided this year that I would go along. So, together with eleven other members of the theatre club, I bought a ticket hoping that the weather would we alright on the night! With us experiencing one of the wettest summers on record, I eyed the weather forecast during the week of the play with trepidation! Right up until the day before the first night it continued to rain. However, on the day of the play the rain stopped – well, almost! There was an option to have a picnic in the grounds of Orchard Dene House, prior to the performance, which some hardy Uptonians chose to do!
The organisation was excellent and, despite the wet weather leading up to the performance the car park was accessible. The walkways were carpeted and well lit and there was help on hand to find your seat. The setting for the play, the tiered garden of Orchard Dene, was perfect for a play set in the late 18th Century and we duly took our seats, armed with waterproofs and umbrellas, just in case!
Although the play, as written by Oliver Goldsmith, took place in the house of Mr Hardcastle – a member of the emerging class of the landed gentry, this entertaining light comedy worked perfectly well set in gardens that would not have been out of place in the 18th Century. The play is about an attempt at an arranged marriage which almost fails. However, after many twists and turns and the guile of the intended bride who had to pretend to be a serving maid in order to catch her man, it all worked out in the end! I though the play was well-cast with outstanding performances given by Hannah Tomkin as Mr Hardcastle’s daughter, Kate and Liz Holliss as Mrs Hardcastle. They were well-supported by the rest of the cast which included our very own Malcolm Wright as the Landlord! There was one interesting moment when a bi-plane flew overhead, temporarily drowning out the words of the play! Perhaps it was a tiger moth attracted to the lights!
The Blewbury Players suffered a great loss in the middle of rehearsals with the death of Tony Loy, who has been involved with the Blewbury Players for over 30 years and was meant to have played the role of Diggory the butler. The production team and cast should be applauded for putting on such a professional production following such a tragic loss.
I thoroughly enjoyed the play and will certainly go again next year. The weather behaved itself in the end, with just one brief shower. Perhaps next year I might venture to take a picnic!
Gloria Smith, September 2012