Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.

Hay Fever (2015):
There are distinct headaches in store for any company performing this play because it has virtually no plot and very little action. And the first to admit these drawbacks was the author himself, Noel Coward.

He chose instead to deliver, in the early 1920s, what purports to be a triumph of style over content. Sincerity? Character depth? Tosh! We are required to laugh AT these people, not WITH them.

Despite this somewhat flatly directed production, we are able to derive a fair measure of entertainment from a handful of spirited performances amid the battleground of a madly dysfunctional family and the hapless weekend guests they relentlessly stun into quivering submission.

Dialogue and reactions make up much of the Coward tour de force and both are delivered with style and elegance by Chris Carpenter's fading matriarch Judith Bliss. Still living in her own extinct theatrical empire, she fawns, flirts, recites and wallows in a world of past glories, suffering the minor irritations of ungrateful offspring and a disinterested husband.

The gradual build-up to outright domestic chaos enables Neil Vallance's dithering diplomatist Richard to indulge a nicely frenetic dualogue with Judith while John Francis savours the comic opportunities of husband David's lusty pursuit of a startled female guest.

More directorial effort is needed to enliven the play's dull start, but newcomer Mahalia Carroll survives this to make ingenuous daughter Sorel a lively young eccentric and clear heiress-apparent to Judith.

In other areas, the ultimate challenge of creating Coward's unique world of manners and insincerity is not realised. But the later energy and enthusiasm in the set-pieces provide a fair degree of fun.



2016 Talisman Theatre