by Noel Coward.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre) Quarry Hill LS2 7UP To 10 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 3 July 2pm, 7 July.
BSL Signed 30 June.
Captioned 8 July 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 June.
A revival not to be sneezed at.
Each year brings a new bout of Hay Fever. Leeds has the timing right – the play’s set over a June weekend in the artistic, egoistic Bliss household. Young Sorel craves normality, but Alice Haig’s character is drawn into the family fever of over-dramatisation. Her brother Simon, often the least satisfactorily-played, has a fine scornful energy from Michael Benz, veering to rudeness or sulking on the sidelines.
He takes after his father; it’s easy to see why the elder Blisses married. Martin Turner’s elegant, taciturn David is the lone novelist, his silent observation complementd by Judith’s actressy elaborations.
Rooted in the depths of her vocal range, mistress of the barbed pause, Maggie Steed’s Judith clearly spent her life as a diva of pseudo-tragic melodrama. She’s a one-woman production company, scripting, directing and stage-managing as well as starring in every situation.
Her intense attention to Richard Greatham’s cigarette-case, followed by an overflowing grand manner when he steals a kiss, or her extended calming down, cooling-off with scent, when alone after a big scene, suggest Judith’s manner both on stage and in the wings.
Their put-upon guests are vivid too in Ian Brown’s considered production. Emma Amos gives the sophisticated Myra a frigidity concealed by elegance, and the uncertain smile of someone bored with herself as with life, while Emily Bowker’s Jackie, most ill-equipped of all, has a constantly provisional presence, taking on the mood of whoever’s nearest, including a delightfully inappropriate anger. Her awed fright as the family enact a scene from Judith’s melodramatic hit is delightfully comic.
Matthew Douglas is aptly restrained as the boxer whose strength lies in physique rather than articulation, while Philip Bretherton shows how close a diplomat’s fixed smile comes to a ghastly grin while attempting a splendidly awful performance in the evening game.
Connie Walker’s maid has issues with drink, which seem to make providing for the house-party less troublesome than usual. And while designer Mike Britton’s front-panel with rose-design sits oppressively above the set, the contrast between elegant furnishing and threadbare carpet captures the family’s excess of taste over care in this genuinely funny revival.
Judith Bliss: Maggie Steed.
David Bliss: Martin Turner.
Simon Bliss: Michael Benz:
Sorel Bliss: Alice Haig.
Myra Arundel: Emma Amos.
Richard Greatham: Philip Bretherton.
Jackie Coryton: Emily Bowker.
Sandy Tyrrell: Matthew Douglas.
Clara: Connie Walker.
Director: Ian Brown.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Mic Pool.
Music consultant: Richard Taylor.
Voice consultant: Joe Windley.
Assistant director: Becky Martin.