WISBECH: Rare treat for town as celebrated comedy performed in home town where it all began

PUBLISHED: 16:11 24 November 2008 | UPDATED: 08:45 02 June 2010

grammar school students in production promo pre pic

grammar school students in production promo pre pic

A CELEBRATED comedy, She stoops to conquer , is set to come home to the town where – according to tradition – it all began over 200 years ago. The story goes that Oliver Goldsmith wrote the play while staying with the Lumpkin family at Park House in Leve

grammar school students in production promo pre pic

A CELEBRATED comedy, 'She stoops to conquer', is set to come home to the town where - according to tradition - it all began over 200 years ago.

The story goes that Oliver Goldsmith wrote the play while staying with the Lumpkin family at Park House in Leverington and that he lampooned his friend, Nicholas Lumpkin, by turning him into his famous creation, Tony Lumpkin.

In the play Tony Lumpkin, a frequenter of the Three Jolly Pigeons, is an idle and ignorant character who is also cunning and mischievous.

The real Nicholas Lumpkin, the last of his line, came into the property at the age of 39 and in 10 short years had squandered the whole of it. When everything had been sold, he moved to Wisbech and died in 1825.

It is said that the Irish playwright wrote the text while sitting under a mulberry tree at the house and that the pond in front of the building inspired the episode in which the character, Mrs Hardcastle, came to grief.

A long-standing family favourite, the play features merry mix-ups, racy dialogue and sly satire of the sentimental comedy of Goldsmith's era.

A cast of 30 students aged from 12 to 18 years old has been rehearsing for three months, both in the evenings and at weekends, and period music, arranged by the pupils, will be performed by musicians in costume.

And 12-year-old Edward Bouch, whose great, great aunt, Miss Sophia Shippey, has been living at Park House since the end of the Second World War, is playing the part of a servant.

In order to add a taste of authenticity to the show, the school's own food historian, Alison Sloan, who recently served up Puritan fare to Giles Coren and Sue Perkins on 'Renaissance Super Size Me', is cooking up eighteenth century titbits with the help of her team of food and nutrition students.

Director Miss Alison Clayton said: "It is great fun for the members of the cast who were steeped in Renaissance tragedy last year to turn their talents to high comedy this year. It is technically more difficult and they have pulled if off with aplomb."

She said that she always endeavoured to make her shows as cross-curricular as possible, but the addition of past pupil Mrs Sloan to the school staff had enabled her to exploit an even wider range of talents

She added: "We knew about the tradition and it has been tremendous to produce one of my all-time favourite plays in its alleged birthplace."

The three-night run starts at the school's Russell Hall on Wednesday, December 3, and the curtains go up at 7.30pm. Tickets costing £6 for adults and £4 for children and pensioners can be bought at the door.


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