7 October 2010

Hay Fever at the Rose Theatre

The Rose Theatre in Kingston is my nearest theatre but has yet to win a place in my heart. With shows like Hay Fever that might just change.

The theatre's location helps sitting as it does on the edge of Charter Quay (it owes it's existence to a planning gain from that development) where there are plenty of bars and restaurants for the theatre-goer to refresh themselves.

I chose Wagamama and went for the yasai katsu curry, which I have been eating for ten years or so. Time for a menu refresh methinks.

The play's attraction for me was simply that it was written by Noël Coward. I'm not sure what I was expecting but Hay Fever was probably it with its subtle humour based on human eccentricities. Mad Dogs and Englishmen if you will.

The play is beautifully crafted over three acts, which I will call Arrival, Pairing and Departure.

In Arrival we are introduced to the four members of the Bliss family and, gradually, to the guests that each of them has invited to the house for the weekend. There is an implicit love interest with each one, despite the parents of the family still being married to each other and, apparently, happily so.

In Pairing the ensemble mixes and pairs off, but not as expected.

Finally, in Departure the four guests escape and leave the Bliss family to muse on the departees' eccentricities oblivious to the fact that theirs are greater and, for us, far more amusing.

The play relies greatly on a superb performance from Celia Imrie as the matriarchal Judith Bliss who thrives on her theatrical background; she has now retired from the stage but still carries some of the limelight around with her. This lets Imrie the actress wallow playfully in melodrama as she portrays Bliss the actress. It's wonderful to behold.

It's also necessary as I found the rest of the cast less convincing and compelling, apart from the daughter's amour who plays straight-laced impeccably. He just had to walk in his bemused manner to get you laughing.

Hay Fever did enough to convince me that the Rose Theatre is worth paying attention to but to get me back regularly they will have to keep doing unusual plays with good actors.

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