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All for laughs

Pat Trueman rises to the challenge in She Stoops to Con quer, her first classical production as Colchester Mercury's artistic director.

For laughs, this is high-carat Oliver Goldsmith. Jill Ames provides a multi-level set and no stop or cranny remains unused in the search for gags. Marlow and Hastings' arrival at the Hardcastles' is upstaged literally by a servant lugging their luggage upstairs. Later, Hastings vents his frustration at the jewels' return to Mrs Hardcastle in a headbanging session.

When characters finally steer their way offstage via collisions with people or objects, they are often followed by crashing noises off. This is all one with the the cheery brass band music framing the action.

There is something to be said for this Classics without Tears approach, especially in the hands of the ever-excellent Bob Hewis as Hardcastle or Andrew Rattenbury's Tony Lumpkin, Sayan Kent's Constance and Lynne Whitehead's Mrs Hardcastle.

Helen Anderson's Kate looks every inch the heroine you love to love but shapes her speech so consciously the lines lose the sense of living spontaneity.

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