There is "She Stoops to Conquer" at the National:
Photo credit: http://newsroom.unl.edu/announce/todayatunl/1159/6920
Photo credit: http://geraint-lewis.photoshelter.com/image/I0000y4WBk1zMq50
And The Recruiting Officer over at the Donmar:
Photo credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/feb/15/the-recruiting-officer-review
Photo credit: http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/recruiting-officer-donmar-warehouse
Production information about She Stoops to Conquer can be found here:
The production still has a week to run and closes next Saturday (21 April).
Production information about The Recruiting Office can be found here:
The production closed tonight (Saturday 14 April).
I have seen both productions twice so how do they compare and which do I prefer? (please note that this is my personal opinion, other people will have their own opinion, and that is as it should be).
In my humble opinion, the stronger of the two plays is She Stoops to Conquer; there is a stronger story/plot running through it; the characters are intrinsically likeable, people who you can empathise with, and you can see yourself and your friends and family reflected in them; and there is a proper resolution with a happy ending for everyone at the end. This is what I remember and loved about Restoration Comedies. Over at the Donmar, I found many of the characters quite dark, cynical and devoid of any morality or conscience, and so it was hard to empathise with them. The characters in a Restoration Comedy should be likeable, like you, and should be redeemed at the end of the play, having learnt from the journey that they have been on over the course of the play; you got that with She Stoops to Conquer, less so with The Recruiting Officer.
The comedy in She Stoops to Conquer is gentler too, you are usually laughing along with the characters, not at them. I loved the way the actors interact conspiratorially on many occasions throughout the play with the front few rows of the stalls and draw the audience in to their little games. In this way, they brought the comedy alive, and the actors carried the whole house with them; this is quite a feat in a theatre like the Olivier which seats 1150 people. Considering it is such a vast auditorium, the actors managed to create a very intimate feel to the piece which is all to their credit. The comedy in She Stoops to Conquer also comes, predominantly, from the actors interacting and playing off eachother; they all seemed to be having a ball and really enjoying themselves tonight. In The Recruiting Officer I felt that a lot of the comedy came from actors doing "turns" eg Mark Gatiss whenever he came on, or Mackenzie Crook playing at being a fortune-telling gypsy. She Stoops to Conquer, although it had a lot of star names in it, felt to me more like an ensemble piece; The Recruiting Officer often felt to me like star actors doing star turns.
The costumes, the props and the scenery on both productions are outstanding. I liked the fact that at the Donmar they bring a live hen onto the stage every night (although what animal rights activists would think of this I do not know!).
The only aspect where I considered The Recruiting Officer superior was to have the musicians as actor musicians live on stage. Over at the National, they have actor singers on stage but the musicians are up in the wings, as they usually are at the National (to deviate slightly for a moment, one of THE best things about One Man, Two Guvnors, which is nominated for so many awards at the Oliviers and was another production beloved of audiences and critics alike was the live band on stage playing original songs at the start, in the interval, the end, AND between scenes). I love having music and musicians as part and parcel of a theatre production (not just musicals) - long may it continue!
As I have already said, what I have written is just my own very humble opinion and I am more than open to challenge on everything that I have written.
And so the winner is (drum roll please!) ... She Stoops to Conquer, a National Theatre production (what a surprise!).
Photo credit: http://www.bloomberg.com/photo/-she-stoops-to-conquer-/147365.html