Read Arts Editor, Josip’s, review of Drama Society’s production of Noël Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’.
As part of the Drama Society’s 130th anniversary of Quad Productions, Amber Lickerish directs this light-hearted classic 1920’s farce focusing on family values, age and class issues and seduction, something us students can all resonate with.
The first thing that an audience member experiences is the immersive improvised interaction between the actors on stage, with music from the era serving as a soundscape which transports the audience back in time. This is heavily aided by the immaculately executed costume by Molly Stapleton and set design by Cassie Boyce, which is both simple and effective.
The wacky Bliss family are at the same time bizarrely distant and irresistibly inviting. The mother, Judith, an aging actress, played by the delightful Abigail Ratcliff, spends more time tending her garden and flowers than looking after her children. Eloise Baker plays Sorel, a spoiled seductress, exceptionally well and one of the highlights of the play must be the petty arguments between her and her brother Simon. Simon is a struggling childish artist brought to life with captivating physicality by Jack Fairhurst, a gifted writer taking the long-awaited leap to the stage. The patriarch of this argumentative household is the self-aware celebrated writer David – played by the moustache-twirling Michael Greenwood, whose booming cackle makes the audience member feel less embarrassed about laughing out loud and more involved and invested in the ridiculous events.
While the family themselves are interesting, it is truly their interactions with their visitors which drive the plot and create the outrageous situations. Stand out performances here must be Livvy Scott’s seductive and sultry Myra and Matthew Bird’s confused and nervous Richard. James Douglas and Susan Potts must be highly commended for their high pitch screams and dramatic wailing respectively. Overlooking the smooth running of the family is Elinor Boult’s Clara, a welsh housekeeper with the sass and attitude of being over it, but with an interesting character arc showcasing her caring side in the play’s culmination. Overall, the exaggerated satirical characters entertain and deliver on the play’s slapstick humour, which means the audience is in stitches for most of the running time of this domestic comedy.
There could be some improvements made through a few more runs – there was some talking over each other and overly awkward pauses, but this is understandable due to a short term dictating a short rehearsal process, as well as the fact that the actors were soaked to the skin and interrupted with an early interval due to rain. It was obvious that the cast and crew embraced the challenges of the space, which aided them rather than hindered their performances, as the dialogue-heavy plot still remained understandable due to good diction and projection, even with the echoing quad and pouring rain. If awards were to be given out for endurance, this cast and crew would definitely be in the running. Their commitment to the characters and the story was telling of the strong relationship they developed with the text, the crew, but, more importantly, each other. This was an ensemble piece and the chemistry was palpable.
Congratulations to the casting choices and a successful rehearsal process which enabled these enjoyable performances.
Catch the final performance tomorrow at 6 pm (doors at 5:30 pm) in the South Quad of Founder’s Building. They have marquees erected for the audience seating, so don’t worry about the weather too much. Take an extra layer of clothes with you, but make sure you don’t #takethebliss.