She Stoops to Conquer, Orange Tree Theatre, 2023
Photo: Marc Brenner
  • Theatre, Comedy
  • Recommended


She Stoops to Conquer

4 out of 5 stars

A dynamite younger cast headed by Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds power this irresistible romp through the classic comedy


Time Out says

The Orange Tree Theatre scores a hit with new artistic director Tom Littler’s raucously enjoyable revival of Oliver Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy classic, ‘She Stoops To Conquer’. With judicious modern tweaks to the script, it’s buoyed along by a top-tier cast who go full ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ on this production’s updated 1930s setting.

The plot is a ridiculous confection of contrivances. Mr Hardcastle (played brilliantly by David Horovitch, like a Punch cartoon come to life) has invited a would-be-suitor for his daughter to visit. However, via the machinations of his layabout stepson, Tony Lumpkin (Guy Hughes, by turns twinkly and petulant), his visitor ends up thinking he’s staying at a country inn, not his potential father-in-law’s home.

This description doesn’t even scratch the surface of Goldsmith’s escalating tangle of relationships and intrigues, which pit rural England against London in a comedy of manners. Richard Derrington rivals Mrs Overall for doddery service as servant Diggory; while, as Mrs Hardcastle, Greta Scacchi sweeps through like a tornado, trying to set up Tony with his wealthy cousin, Constance (Sabrina Bartlett, who appears to be having as much fun as her character).

Littler uses the theatre’s in-the-round setting beautifully, coupling the cosy oak panelling of Anett Black and Neil Irish’s set with the characters’ many conspiratorial asides to the audience. He keeps the play wry and light on its feet, as everyone frothily falls foul of class pretension. We revel as gleefully as the play in the posh stupidity on display.  

Few can act an endearingly buffoonish posho as well as Freddie Fox. He’s on exceptional form here as Charles Marlow – stuttering his way through his meeting with would-be-fiancée Kate Hardcastle before going full lounge lizard on her when she pretends to be a barmaid at her father’s ‘inn’. He and Robert Mountford, as best pal George Hastings, are an excellent double-act – every grimace is a winner.

As Kate, Tanya Reynolds (‘Sex Education’) parts the bluster and confusion with playful clear-sightedness and abundant stage charisma. The play may be old, but its younger cast, in particular, are on trend and firing on all cylinders.


£15-£50. Runs 2hr 10min
You may also like
You may also like
London for less