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.
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
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.