She Stoops to Conquer

During his past two years living in Germany, British expat Simon soon realized that one of the things he missed most about London was the monthly visits to the theatre with his family and friends. Rather slow progress with the German language and a very limited availability of English-language theatre productions in Munich have turned an enjoyable night out at the theatre into somewhat of a rare occasion for Simon – until a friend told him about the National Theatre London screenings, very popular with the British expat community around the world…

“I love every thing that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines”, but last March 29th was the first time I have enjoyed going to see an old fashioned 18th century comedy. This was the occasion of the National Theatre London’s screening of the Oliver Goldsmith classic She stoops to conquer. A filmed version of the production, still running in London, that was broadcast to cinemas all over the world, including Cinema-München just around the corner from my flat.

Much cheaper than the real thing, you can get your ticket, beer and popcorn, and still see change from €25. At these prices, it was nearly a full house, packed with almost as many posh English voices as you can hear in the National Theatre itself (“Do they seem to be Londoners? – Land. I believe they may. They look woundily like Frenchmen.”) There is even a curtain in front of the screen. I shuffled in just as the curtain was going up and found my place near the front of the auditorium, keen to get as near to the action as possible.

The play is the story of the “Englishman’s malady”. Our hero is a man of the world who is full of life and gaiety around his male friends, but turns into “a trembler” when confronted with any eligible woman of his own social standing. So it is that when the mistress of the house approaches, he averts his eyes and starts mumbling incoherently in response to her gentle questioning. Sympathetic to the ailment and eager to encourage him the young lady ‘stoops to conquer’ by dressing up as a barmaid and pretending she is a servant, rather than mistress. So attired she quickly finds herself the recipient of much more fulsome entreaties: “O la, sir, you`ll make one ashamed”.

Aside from the enjoyable language, it is not a play I would have gone out of my way to see, but with an all star cast really revelling in all the slapstick gags and the high pace of the action never waning, it became a really fun night’s entertainment. I quite laughed myself silly.

The National Theatre live broadcasts have been growing in popularity for several years, usually organised by individual enthusiasts and expat communities, in towns and cities all around the world. Now the phenomena has taken off and She stoops to conquer was screened in hundreds of cinemas the night I saw it. People were watching it in Australia, New Zealand, all over the States and Europe; even as far away as South Africa.

I think it’s a brilliant thing! The standards of the productions put on at the at the National Theatre are mega, and now so many more people can enjoy it. I didn’t find the silver screen much of a barrier to my enjoyment. The show is filmed from lots of different angles and edited to ensure you zoom in on the action and best gags. Its even fair to say you can get closer to the performers in some ways than you would at the back of a packed theatre. They also spice up the show with interviews with the cast before the show and during the interval. The next show is Frankenstein in June, a re-run of one last years productions that got a lot of praise and is sure to be another great night out. – Why not see if it’s being shown in your town, too?

Thank you Simon Goodall for your contribution to our blog.

All pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Attribution: Alan Stanton (2), Andreas Praefcke (3)

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