Greville Theatre Club at the Barn Theatre Little Easton
A “complete featherbed of false emotions” ? Well, yes. Coward's weekend with the insufferably theatrical Bliss ménage is high on bon mots, thinner on plotting. But Greville's stylish production, marking their 50th anniversary [what was the first ever show in Lady Warwick's Little Theatre, I wonder?] was a delight throughout, thanks to blue chip performances and first class production values. Hay Fever was directed by Rita Vango and produced by Judy Lee.
Did Coward choose the ironic Tea for Two as a curtain raiser [and a wicked choreographed number for the grumpy Clara, dresser to the stars and only domestic on duty, nicely played by Diana Bradley ] ? They certainly had it in the Dame Judi's revival a few years ago, but I can't help feeling Noel would have chosen one of his own opus, or tossed off a little number specially …
Judith Bliss, grande dame of the stage, always performing, was brilliantly done by Jan Ford. Arranging flowers, living Love's Whirlwind, making perfunctory introductions, it was all pitch perfect. I especially enjoyed her scene with the “diplomatist [Steve Braham]. “Smug and pompous”, her long-suffering and insufferable husband, was in the safe hands of Peter Nicholson, who looked and sounded the part to perfection. Their progeny were Laura Bradley as Sorel, perhaps more a fresh, open-air girl than she should have been, but a nicely drawn character, and Nigel Smith as Simon.
Their weekend guests included Marcia Baldry as the overpowering vamp Myra Arundel, and Philip Gordon as the sporty Sandy Tyrell – I've seen heartier types in flannels, but he was good on the awkwardness of the nervous, uncomfortable stranger. The costumes – Judy Lee and Jan Mitchell – were gorgeous, especially the sparkling Act Two evening gowns, and the stripy number for the gauche young flapper, a nice mousy performance from Lynda Shelverton.
The discerning Barn audience loved every minute – there were several old-fashioned rounds of applause – and the attention to detail was exemplary: the hats added to, and subtracted from, the hatstand by the door just one salient example.
Next event in this anniversary year is a visit from the renowned Lord Chamberlain's Men, bringing their all-male Twelfth Night to the imposing lawn by the Barn. Friday July 31.