Young Marlow cannot bring himself to make even the slightest of eye contact with a woman of his station. The English gentleman stutters nervously, fidgeting and blubbering like a lost child. Kate Hardcastle sort of likes him.
Their 'interview' has been arranged by their fathers, but in order for Irish lass Kate to conquer in love, she must first pretend to be a working class heroine (Marlow has no issue about turning on the charm for the 'common' ladies).
Hence, the title. And you know what? That's about as simple a description I can give when it comes to the ludicrously overcomplicated She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith's three-hour relic that plays out like a situation comedy, but eventually falls into farce territory.
It has its charms - and a perfect cast - but by God, does it stretch its premise, busying itself with unnecessary sub-plots and over-egged exposition.
Originally staged in 1773, She Stoops… is, admittedly, a nice fit for Christmas, director Conall Morrison's lavish production proving easy on the eye, and gentle on the ear with dazzling comedic and musical performances that frequently break the fourth wall (think of it as high-brow panto). It's a tale of family clashes, secret love affairs, comical misunderstandings and missing jewels.
But it always comes back to a girl deceiving a boy, and said boy falling on his ass. Quite literally, in fact. Abbey newcomer Caroline Morahan (Kate) is a revelation - a delightful performer with wonderful comic chops.
Marty Rea (Marlow) is a hoot. Elsewhere, Jon Kenny pulls out the funny faces as Kate's old man and the simply sublime David Pearse (Tony Lumpkin) steals the show.
Running until January 31 HHHII