She Stoops To Conquer
The Boy I Love Is Up In the Gallery
Rogues’s Gallery double bill at Hoxton Hall is a charmingly roguish concoction of music hall tributes that blows the dust off the genre with plenty of wit and wisdom. Both She Stoops To Conquer and The Boy I Love approach music hall from two very different angles, cleverly playing with dramatic structure and exploiting the overt qualities of the genre. If the first is a tentative and sensitive approach to storytelling, weaving in music hall elements and playing off the tragicomic nature of farce, the second joins classic music hall acts with clever storytelling and crafted theatrical inventions.
Oliver Goldsmiths’s She Stoops To Conquer is brought to life by Matthew Evans, this year’s JMK Award winner, with precision and a genuine love of farce. The plot revolves around a misunderstanding between suitor, Marlow (Robert Fawsitt), his companion Hastings (Alex Marx), and the family of the bride to be, Kate Hardcastle (Claire Cordier). As Marlow and Hastings travel in search for the Hardcastle mansion, Mrs Hardcastle’s son, Tony Lumpkin (Jack Chedburn) deceives them into thinking they’re far away from their destination; instead he recommends they spend the night at the local inn, in fact the home they’ve been looking for all along. Then follows an evening of conceits and misunderstandings played with vigour, confidence and tapping toes. Under Evans’ precise direction, the play has an engaging balance of humour and drama, never falling for its prevalent sentimentality. In a clever mixing of old and new, the butler (Tom Shephard) starts off the show in a witty and engaging musical act, a tribute to writer PG Wodehouse, weaving facebook references with humorous sentimentalities. Evans manages to balance comedy of manners with satire through his attention to detail and interest in character relationships. The play is constantly referential to its own theatricality, turning the characters into worthy caricatures, underlined by a potent social satire of human behaviour and aspirations.
The Boy I Love is follows the death of music hall and the birth of silent cinema through the fictionalized story of Charlie Chaplin’s parents. The play embraces the genre by introducing actual music hall songs and a burlesque act whose guest star changes with every performance. Beau Burlington is a fine addition to the line of guest stars, and blends in beautifully with the tacky, loud and playful atmosphere of the performance. As the only performers playing multiple characters, Lydia Rose Bewley, Victoria Lupton and Tim Pritchett take us on a journey through a three act story, with ‘a beginning, a middle and an end’, each complimented by a distinct mode of storytelling, be it cinema, variety acts or monologues. Although the story could be more tightly knit together and less concerned with the character of Chaplin himself, the narrative drive and visual ingenuity of the trio give plenty of pace and flair to the piece.
Music Hall might not fill the East End theatres of today, but it’s certainly part of a wider theatrical consciousness that has influenced modes of storytelling and theatricality. In the finely curated double bill, Rogues Gallery have really brought Hoxton Hall to life in an engaging mix of performance, farce, song and play, animating the madcap roaring twenties atmosphere with a tad of old fashioned humour.