Friday, 29 September 2017

Hay Fever, MTC, Sept 28, 2017 ***1/2

Written by Noël Coward, by Melbourne Theatre Company
At Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until Oct 28, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Sept 29, 2017, & later in print (Oct 3, 17). KH

Kim Gyngell, Imogen Sage, Marina Prior, Alexandra Keddie, Drew West_pic Brett Boardman
If hell is other people, the guests staying with the Bliss family in Noël Coward’s Hay Fever are plunged right into the inferno for an entire weekend.

In this comedy of ill manners set in Coward’s naughty but decorative 1920s, Judith Bliss (Marina Prior) is a retired actress living in her country house with her novelist husband, David (Kim Gyngell), dilettante son, Simon (Gareth Davies), and socialite daughter, Sorel (Imogen Sage).

When each of the Blisses, unbeknown to the other family members, invites a guest to stay the weekend, this eccentric, outwardly easy-going family reveals the extent of its ill-mannered and self-centred behaviour. The Blisses are eminently slappable.

Coward’s play is diverting flummery peppered with witticisms, gentle jibes, a little bit of 1920s sauciness and populated by a parade of silly characters.

In this frisky production directed by Lee Lewis, Prior displays her comedic skills as Judith, with histrionic gestures and ‘theatrical effects’, even singing a sultry, French love song as one of Judith’s blatant seduction techniques.

It’s a pity that Simon Gleeson, with his fine tenor, does not join Prior in a duet at the piano, but he has excellent comic timing and delivery as the poncy, stitched-up diplomat, Richard Greatham.

Davies is suitably brattish and mincing as Simon while Sage pouts and complains as Sorel and Gyngell is wry and prickly as the reclusive David.

Their guests suffer varying degrees of confusion, but Myra Arundel, played elegantly by Monica Sayers, accurately describes the Bliss house as ‘a featherbed of false emotions’.

Alexandra Keddie captures the bewilderment of visiting ingénue, Jackie Coryton, while Drew Weston is playfully puppyish as Judith’s adoring, youthfully gauche fan, Sandy Tyrell, and Marg Downey is refreshing as the dour, Scottish housekeeper, Clara.

The mad cavorting and social gaffes are reminiscent of Fawlty Towers, but the Bliss family always prevails because they are almost totally unaware of their own appalling behaviour and its impact on others. Like I said, hell is other people.
MTC_HayFever_Drew Weston, Marina Prior_pic Brett Boardman

By Kate Herbert

Gareth Davies - Simon  Bliss
Marg Downey -Clara
Simon Gleeson -Richard Greatham
Kim Gyngell -David Bliss
Alexandra Keddie -Jackie Coryton
Marina Prior -Judith Bliss
Imogen Sage,-Sorel Bliss
Monica Sayers -Myra Arundel
Drew Weston -Sandy Tyrell

Director -Lee Lewis
Lighting -Paul Jackson
Set -Christina Smith
Costume -Esther Marie Hayes
Composer- Kelly Ryall
MTC_HayFever_ Marina Prior_Simon Gleeson_pic Brett Boardman

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