She Stoops to Conquer, Viaduct Theatre, Halifax ****
They’ve done it again. Northern Broadsides has taken a story that seems little to do with the company and run it through with its own sensibilities like Blackpool through a stick of rock. Ostensibly a Restoration Comedy (it falls without the time frame but within the manners of that definition) it’s easy to wonder what it’s doing on the dank and dirty stage of Broadsides’ home The Viaduct.
Yes, the company long since expanded its repertoire of Shakespeare in Northern voices, but wigs and big costumes? What are they thinking? What they are thinking, it would appear, is that anything can be given the Broadsides treatment and come up smelling Northern.
London gentleman Marlow is to meet a prospective wife at her father’s home. Marlow, played with enormous fun by Oliver Gomm, is mistaken in believing the place he has arrived is a country inn on the way and his future father in law the inn-keeper. Seeing that his nerves get the better of him when he is around women of a certain class, his betrothed Kate Hardcastle sees the mix-up and passes herself off as a serving wench.
Yes, it’s possible that done badly it might well have a hint of the pantomime. Broadsides is much too rooted and director Conrad Nelson far too intelligent to allow it to spiral that far, although he does let the action ramp up towards hysteria. Lauryn Redding as Kate Hardcastle’s cousin Miss Neville does herself enormous favours, again, by being stand-out brilliant in her role. A very funny play, deftly told by a company that simply seems to be getting better all the time.
• Touring, see www.northern-broadsides.co.uk
On the Piste, Theatre Royal, Wakefield ****
John Godber has always been obsessed with the class struggle and the tensions that exist between the classes.
For anyone who went skiing in the 1990s, there were two groups conspicuous by their absence – ethnic minorities and the working class. Maybe things have changed and skiing holidays are now more egalitarian, not, however, in Godber’s Chamonix.
While the music and cultural references span the ages, this new version of the Olivier award winning comedy feels set in the present day. The outfits would suggest so. Bev and Dave are young lovers at the lower end of the social strata, thrown together with Chris and Alison on day one of their skiing holiday.
Frenchman – or at least man with a comedy French accent – Tony is the good-looking fly in the ointment who upsets the seemingly solid relationship between Alison and Chris, while Dave and Bev’s days seem numbered from the start. It is at its heart a study of two very different relationships falling apart, but the thing that makes it unusual is the introduction of the very Godberian notion of believing skiing can take place on stage. That is the coup de theatre – as is putting rugby on stage in Up n Under or a nightclub in Bouncers – that makes this so very Godber.
• Touring, details on www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk.