Daily Archives: April 23, 2009

Review: Hay Fever – Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre: Hay Fever by Noel Coward

If you’re in need of a lift, make sure you catch Hay Fever at Chichester – it’s a hayfever1delight.

First of all, there’s the script. It doesn’t matter a jot that there isn’t really any plot to speak of in this Twenties romp, when you have Coward’s elegant, witty dialogue to entertain you.

Second, and very close behind, there’s the cast. It’s quality from start to finish with Diana Rigg (as ageing actress and flirt Judith Bliss) and Simon Williams (grumpy writer David Bliss) leading the way, and receiving sterling support from experienced performers Guy Henry (stiff and awkward diplomat Richard Greatham, who daughter Sorel admires), Sue Wallace (put-upon housemaid Clara) and Caroline Langrishe (socialite Myra Arundel, mooned after by son Sam), alongside newer faces Laura Rogers (daughter Sorel Bliss), Sam Alexander (aspiring artist Simon Bliss), Edward Bennett (hopeless goof Sandy Tyrell, yearning for Judith) and Natalie Walter (flapper Jackie Coryton, who David plans to ‘study’).

The interplay between the characters provides much of the entertainment, as a quiet weekend at the Bliss household’s country home turns into a manic relationship mix-up as each has an uninvited guest coming to stay. Whatever the hopes and dreams each had for the stay, they are soon turned on their heads by the determined eccentricities of the Bliss family, at times almost oblivious to their guests.

They row, they argue and show appalling manners all round. Yet they are as quick to make up as a family as to fall out, and the family unit’s strength is clear by the end – despite the effect they have on their guests.

Coward’s writing touches on a number of deeper questions, from class to the search for truth, and while the brilliance of the dialogue and the relationships between the different characters at times disguises this, there is much to be savoured in a production that lifts the spirits – and give you plenty to think on.

Nikolai Foster’s direction is high quality, as you’d expect, and the production features a superb set by Robert Jones.

The production runs until 2 May and you can book tickets online at www.cft.org.uk or by calling  01243 781312.

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Review: Brief Encounter – Brighton Theatre Royal

Brighton Theatre Royal: Brief Encounter

I’d love to know what audiences make of this imaginative, entertaining production of a romantic classic.

There was a huge amount to enjoy: high quality performances from a versatile, talented cast; imaginative staging that saw performers step into and out of backdrop film projection; jaunty and sometimes unexpected arrangements of classic Noel Coward songs; and much more comedy than I was expecting.

We felt thoroughly entertained by a Kneehigh Theatre production it was very hard not to feel charmed and captivated by. The staging and sets effectively took us back into wartime Britain, and excellent musicianship and harmonies on display made it a musical treat as well.

However, I do wonder whether the romantics in the audience drawn along because of the classic David Lean film with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson will feel slightly hard done by. The comic tone of many of the cast performances – which were hugely entertaining – at times threatened to pull the rug from under the tender, yearning scenes between principal characters Laura (Hannah Yelland, complete with terribly cut glass English accent) and Alec (Milo Twomey, all flapping raincoat and doctorly charm).

brief-encounter-51Because of this the choreographed moves of the ensemble complete with film backdrop of crashing waves became almost parody-like due to being repeated just a little too often.

Maybe I’m nitpicking though, because it was overall a thoroughly entertaining show – with standout performances from the whole cast, particularly Joseph Alessi, as both cheeky chappy Albert and dull-but-kind husband Fred, and Beverley Rudd as teabar giggler Beryl.

With the musicians mingling with the audience before the start and setting the tone with some jazz-lite Coward songs, the ambience was excellent throughout, mixing vaudeville and music hall with fast-moving storytelling.

I do wonder, though, whether the romantics would have liked to have laughed rather less and cried rather more.

Book until Saturday (25 April) on 08700 606 650 or online at www.theambassadors.com/theatreroyal

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The Tweets of Brandon Cummerbund Pt 2

Pocket handkerchief crisis. Government step in. World leaders confer. Cook finds it in saucepan. Today’s biscuit: Bourbon. Breakfast: banana

Scrimshaw, beard crimper and toast buffer Brandon Cummerbund

Scrimshaw, beard crimper and toast buffer Brandon Cummerbund

Some days I mourn the decreasing use of tongs. Pulled a muscle attempting to fold the Telegraph. Cheese of the day: Gouda. Learning to yodel

Guildhall function last night. Bassoon playing gave me a headache. Or might have been the spritzers. Beverage: soda. Breakfast: parsley

And why should quoits should not be an Olympic sport? Mongoose snaffles chops. Mildew is as mildew does. Dog of the day: boxer. Pong: sewer

Today’s lesson: Tumble-drying is best done by a machine. Think the hip will recover. Chum of mine: Tolly Snitchplunger. Breakfast: quail.

A study of knots has much to commend it. If fell walking is a description rather than a pursuit, stick to taxis. Wind: SE. Breakfast: scones

Chum of mine: Ticktock Strangely – surrealist watch repairer. Never give a croissant an even break. Paint of the day: country meadow. Hoorah

Gad! Birthday imminent. Dinner party planned: pheasant, rosti, wobbly jelly, gin fizz. Assorted loons descending for carousing. Aunt banned.

Swift daquiri to mark the splendid day. Cook making an architrave of blancmange. Mrs C fussing over embroidery. Luncheon with poetical chums

Precipitation appears to be ongoing. Twanged nerve in right shoulder blade. Hot Cross Bun imminent. Breakfast: archipelago of swan, toast

A gentleman foregoes fish gutting in the presence of a lady. Chum of mine: Bishop Rev Dr Waltzing Mebuilder. Tea: cod. Brolly weather. Parp!

Hair oil goes missing. Cod liver oil sandwiches. Suspicious. Cook looks sanguine. Mongoose avoids my gaze. No breakfast. Gargling ticketyboo

Creaky knees. Twingey back. Cheesy buns. Dew on grass. Bicycle in shed. Mongoose in disgrace. Cook on a roll. Sausage roll. Brandon on banjo

Joyous Easter shennigans. Chocolatier excels himself. Cook beside herself. Mongoose reprieved. Boot boy sticky. Church: I should cocoa. Yip!

Malingering Monday. Leftovers to eat. Cook day off. Mongoose to have bath. Hatches battened down. Pig in aviary. Mrs C after it with broom.

Toaster back off holidays. Plan to get my spats ironed. Chum of mine: Voluminous Twig, freelance aborealist. Breakfast: kippers, plum torte

Overslept. Or underwoke. Must have been the tonic. Mrs C beating carpets. Cook beating egg. Mongoose beating next door’s cat. Happy days

Eeni, meeni, mynee, mo. Except on Thursdays, when a large spatchcock will suffice. I sense a marmalade on toast moment. Socks inside out.

Taking Mrs C to the theatre. Mongoose left in charge with strict orders to repel all callers, particularly mad aunts. Cravat: Old Yeoman.

Splendid night at theatre. Mongoose strangely quiet on our return. Something’s afoot. 1.30 at Fontwell: Jagger’s Mangle. Hat of day: trilby

Perambulation is the mother-in-law of bus strikes. Note it well. Chum of mine: Timbuktalulah Boomdeyay, society golddigger. Breakfast: toast

No milk. Cow sacked. Chicken worried. Cook beside herself. Good trick if you can do it. Chum of mine: Len ‘Thwack’ Bungeeclamp. Food: yams.

Ironmongery can delight the soul. A specially curved fork is wonder to behold. Chum of mine: somnambulent twitcher Snooze the Tickwarbler

Splendid day for a tootle round the local park on the wheeled steed. Mrs C heading to shops. Cook off to medicine cabinet. Breakfast: pawpaw

No shoes in house. Boot boy has sold them. Boot boy sacked. Mrs C recommends thick socks. Game of the day: hopscotch. Breakfast: spiced ham

Beware the toffee hammer. It may be small, but foolish is the man who underestimates it. Go placidly amidst the stuff and things. Tally-ho!

I used to think stubble-burning a kind of extreme sport version of shaving. Some days I mourn the decreasing use of inkwells. Jam: kumquat

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