She Stoops to Conquer - In conversation with Lauryn Redding

Fresh from the critical acclaim of ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’, Halifax theatre company Northern Broadsides are set to stage Oliver Goldsmith’s much loved 18th century comedy of manners, ‘She Stoops To Conquer’.

By Manchester's Finest | December 8th '14

Fresh from the critical acclaim of ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’, Halifax theatre company Northern Broadsides are set to stage Oliver Goldsmith’s much loved 18th century comedy of manners, ‘She Stoops To Conquer’.

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Relocated, in true Northern Broadsides style, from the West Country to the North of England, Goldsmith’s 1773 play is a celebrated story of class, courtship and dysfunctional families.

Set against the increasingly chaotic proceedings of one very long night, She Stoops to Conquer is filled with ludicrous misunderstandings, larger than life characters and outrageous frocks and wigs.

Lauryn Redding who takes to the stage as the comical Miss Neville talks with Manchester’s Finest about the reinvention of this long-standing drama and why Northern Broadsides take on the comedy of errors is one well worth a watch.

As a reproduction of the Georgian comedy She Stoops to Conquer dating back to 1773, how does it feel to perform a production with such a rich history?
It’s great, the language is so rich and the content too. There are four small plots going on simultaneously, and it still translates now even though it was such a long time ago. Your ears adapt easily to the language and we’ve even been asked which parts of the language have been modernised, but it hasn’t been modernised. It’s just that we still use some of the sayings now.

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Northern Broadsides describe themselves as Shakespeare with a northern voice “It becomes a dynamic way of speaking – there’s definitely nothing lethargic about the voices. It is our USP.” How does it feel performing something from the Georgian era in a northern accent – do you feel it modernises the plot?

Broadsides make theatre very accessible whether it’s new writing, Shakespeare or texts like She Stoops to Conquer.

I’m obviously a Northerner so I speak in my normal voice and there are others from Lancashire and Yorkshire and it seems the northern voice carries it. It’s strong and confident and wholesome. It’s the bread of the earth and people do listen.

I think sometimes when there’s a lot of heightened RP you do find that your ears turn off because you don’t necessarily hear that as much anymore in everyday life, whereas with the northern voice or other regional accents there’s an accessibility there.

Do you find it’s different for a southern rather than a northern audience?
No actually, I always wondered what it’d be like going down south but it works. I could honestly say that in little moments you might get a laugh on a certain line because it’s a Yorkshire or Lancashire thing but to be honest it translates, the North-South divide doesn’t exist at all really.

How does the production appeal to a Mancunian audience – does the translation attract a certain age group or does it appeal to a variety of ages?
This play is a story about two young lovers and that hits every age from teenagers to the older and even the younger generation. There’s lots of comedy and slapstick, movement, fighting and tom foolery.
I play Constance Neville who has to pretend to fancy her cousin so she can get the riches from her family. She has to chase him around and he’s about 5 foot nothing and with my wig and my heels on I’m about 6 foot, so it’s a bit ‘Tom and Jerry esque’ which is good fun.
I think no matter where the audience and the age of the audience, it carries well. It’s a great story and we hopefully tell it well.

The costume design by Jessica Worrall is said to be one of the highlights of the production – what is it about their flamboyance that adds something to the script?
Jess uses lots of bold colours in her designs and I wear a traditional Georgian dress but its bright yellow which they wouldn’t have had back then. The costumes aid the storytelling. A mother –son relationship sees both wearing leopard and tiger print which connects the characters together.
There’s a lot of fashion choices mentioned in the story and the design and the costume really show that. The main premise of the story is that Kate Hardcastle stoops to conquer this guy who has come up from London and one of the things she does is changes her dress which makes him believe that she’s poor.
So the costumes help tell the story but they look great and they’re fab to wear.

It’s your second production with Northern Broadsides, is it the company that appeals to you or the productions?
I had a really good time on my first production with them which was ‘An August Bank Holiday Lark’, they’re a really great company, and they create really great work.
I used to watch them when I was younger. When I was growing up, I used to come to the Theatre Royal in York and watch their plays. So I’ve grown up watching Barrie Rutter and his company on stage, but it’s just nice to work near home and also work with a company who really care about it and have a really strong northern voice.

How does the cast of actor- musicians work within the production?
We play live music on stage and sing on stage as well as performing. I play guitar and double-bass in this show. There’s also a piccolo, a violin, there’s all sorts and it’s all live. It’s great for an audience, not only do they get to watch the play but they get to see the music being created live on stage.

You’ve had experience as MD and composer – was it always to be an actor-musician or is one role more specifically appealing?
I class myself as an actor who plays music and they work together. Sometimes when I’m, not acting then I’ll gig which is a completely different entity.
The musicality of something is an important part of storytelling for me. The way I look at texts and the way I look at a story is musically which is just the way my brain works I think!

With a long list of theatre and television credits, the most common seems to be the genre of period dramas with a twist including She Stoops to Conquer and Horrible Histories – why do these scripts appeal to you?
It’s just worked out that way. I’ve done a lot of horrible histories, I’m actually going over to Australia for a month for the Australian tour. I love history I always have and when I’ve done horrible histories it is history with a twist.
She Stoops to Conquer is set in Georgian times but it’s a story that is still relevant today. And I do enjoy it. I’ve done King Lear and a Comedy of Errors at The Globe. I think history is something that I do enjoy in my own time and the fact that it has blended into my work is a bonus really.

Is there a script or production that you would love to play in next?
I’d love to play Joan of Arc but then I would love to play Nancy in Oliver! Or you know – someone who’s having a heart transplant in Holby City, I’m easy, I’ll do anything!