Hay Fever – March 2007

6/10

By: Noel Coward

Directed by: Peter Hall, revival by Joe Harmston

Venue: Theatre Royal, Brighton

Date: Monday 12th March 2007

Whoops! We were five minutes late for this one, the first time that’s happened for many years. As a result, we saw the first act from the rear stalls – still a good view and we were able to hear very well.

One of the problems I have with this play is how dated it is. There’s still a lot of fun to be had, but the characters and situation aren’t as relevant now compared to, say, Present Laughter, which hasn’t dated nearly as much. The sight of a bunch of people sitting, embarrassed, because their hosts haven’t handed round the teacups is frankly passé as comedy. The other problem is that I have to spend a couple of hours (mercifully short) in the company of some very unpleasant people, whom I wouldn’t want to meet in real life. Given these drawbacks, I didn’t have high hopes for tonight’s performance, which is often the best way to approach any production. This was definitely better than expected, though not enough for me to put the play on my “most wanted” list.

Stephanie Beacham was excellent as Judith Bliss, the aging actress who still wants to attract men, and whose need for constant drama led to most of the fun. Her expressions as she manoeuvred everyone to her satisfaction were very enjoyable. She got across very well that this was just pretence.

Christopher Timothy played her writer husband and partner in chaos. I really liked the way he turned the tables on Myra Arundel (the floozy who’s trying to seduce him) by being totally up for it, and making her back off. He obviously appreciates his wife’s talents, especially in the final part of Act Two, when she’s reprising her role in a favourite play (can’t remember the name now). The children were good, too; suitably obnoxious and immature, but with enough charm to believably attract their share of the weekend’s victims.

I always feel sorry for the poor people who’ve agreed to visit this household for the weekend – they obviously don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for. The way each family member pairs up with the wrong guest is always entertaining, and this group of actors were well matched – all the relationships worked.

The costumes were very good, the set was pretty, and overall it was an enjoyable experience.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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