Theatregoers and appreciators of early to mid 20th century film and theatre alike should be well versed in the varied talents of playwright, lyricist and actor, Noël Coward. If you aren’t, do a quick Wiki search – you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with much of his work.
For their debut performance of 2013, Blackwood Players (with director Damien White in the lead) have revived Hay Fever, originally written in 1924. The bored and exuberant Bliss family have each invited a guest (much to the amusement of each other) to their lavish home in the countryside. Tumultuous, failed-actress Judith Bliss (Nicole Seal) lures lean, spunky athlete Sandy Tyrell (Paul Hutchison). Her husband, the author David Bliss (Bed Todd), brings the timid Jackie Coryton (Mikhaila Dignam). Children Sorel and Simon (Rosie Williams and Mitchell Lowe) drag over potential suitors, the awkwardly charming Richard Greatham (Scott Brokenshire) and the lush and lavish Myra Arundel (Miffy Davis). The romping antics do nothing to calm the overworked housekeeper Clara (Debbie Jeffries). What follows is a comedy of manners as the outlandish Bliss family try their best to stage as much drama as possible, much to the delight of their guests.
First and foremost, accolades are due to each and every actor for their authentic accents. It is a particularly challenging feat to smother the overtly nasal twang that is the Australian accent, and each actor has done this well. This may not sound significant, but there is nothing worse than the failed Australian-English mish-mash that is common amongst many amateur productions.
Williams and Seal were clear standouts; their onstage chemistry as mother and daughter was sublime and they so perfectly carried the surmounting theatrics the Bliss family brought about. Seal was enormously entertaining and possessed pitch-perfect comedic timing and charming wit. Todd, Davis and Dignam displayed wonderful and authentic expressive emotions and carried their roles well. Lowe had a slightly stiff and stale beginning, but quickly gained momentum and delivered a great performance. Brokenshire delivered the awkward charm of Greatham and interacted amusingly with his potential suitors. Hutchison’s movements at first seemed a tad awkward, but he incorporated this nicely into his character. Jeffries was lovable and humorous.
There were some issues with Todd and Jeffries expression of anger, which at times seemed a little over the top, verging on volatile. Jeffries’ intonation and rhythm was at times odd, but it didn’t deter from the charm of her character.
The minor issues did little to mar the overall performance. Overall, an authentic and entertaining production, filled to the brim with talent, humour, charm … and awkwardness! Brave the wild weather to trek up to Blackwood; you won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: Blackwood 21, 21 Coromandel Parade, Blackwood
Season: July 19 – 20, 26 – 27, August 2 – 3
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: $15.00 – $20.00
Bookings: Bookings via website, or email mailto:[email protected]
Photo Credit: Blackwood Players