Star rating – 9/10
Oliver Goldsmith's timeless period piece provided another bawdy and brilliant night’s theatre courtesy of National Theatre Live. It is a great, classic, hilarious farce with mistaken identities and class differences making for frolics and fun in frocks. Written in 1773, this delightful play proves that good comedy is ageless, with lots of the jokes seeming as funny today as they must have been to eighteenth century audiences.
Although the noise levels were a bit loud at first - Steve Pemberton as Mr Hardcastle in particular seemed a bit shouty – most of the acting was simply exemplar. Significant press attention has gone to ex-Corrie star Katherine Kelly as Kate Hardcastle, whose would be suitor mistakes her father’s country house for an inn, leading to uproarious confusion. And she certainly proves she is much more than a soap star ‘has been’. But in truth this play contains stand out performances almost all round.
Sophie Thompson in particular was hilarious as Mrs Hardcastle, who desperately tries to impress her guests with her knowledge of the London fashions, and who has a fantastic array of glorious facial expressions and voices to match, to more than fulfil the part. There are some great two handed scenes such as those between John Heffernan as Hastings, who has some very funny asides to the audience, and David Flynn as Tony Lumpkin, the son who would rather be in the local inn with the rural folk than in his mother's home with his rich step father with pretensions of grandeur.
Young director Jamie Lloyd chooses to keep to with period costume for this totally camp and outsize adaptation, which also contains beautiful costumes and a cleverly rotating set. He brings out Goldsmith’s themes of opposites – town v country, class v class - in this highly entertaining, and witty satire. This was another triumph for great theatre on the cinema screen. If you’ve not tried it yet and are still sceptical – then you really should.