Fresh off a great night at the National, day two of the London theatrical experience had us seeing another dysfunctional family causing havoc in the countryside, a la Noel Coward, for our theatrical lunch and then a straight up laugh out loud comedy from the hilarious Mischief Comedy Troupe for our theatrical dinner.
Noel Coward’s Hay Fever is a beautifully produced bit of historical comedy. As with most Noel Coward, this lunch is served dry with a splash of sharp wit. Everyone of the actors are glorious, telling us the tale of the silly theatrical Bliss family, living out their days in the countryside: a famous stage actress of a certain age, supposedly retired from the stage ( a wonderfully grand dame of a diva, Felicity Kendal), her writer husband, David (Simon Shepherd), and their children; the daughter, Sorel (Alice Orr-Ewing) and their son, Simon (Edward Franklin). All of them unconventional, utterly charming, impatient, dramatic, intelligent and prone to a lovely bit of narcissism, but also, downright rude; they are everything a respectable English family shouldn’t be. They have each inadvertently invited a guest/lover/admirer to visit them for the weekend; Michael Simkins (Richard Greatham), Sara Stewart (Myra Arundel), Celeste Dodwell (Jackie Coryton), and Edward Killingback (Sandy Tyrrell) all come unsuspecting for the weekend. Mossie Smith (Clara) plays the exasperated housekeeper. And as is dictated by Noel Coward, and directed by Lindsay Posner, this is where the fun begins.
Or does it?
I must say that I found the whole lot a bit tedious and self absorbed. Far too dramatic and obvious for my liking. But here lies the problem with back-to-back theatrical viewing. Was it really tedious, or was this production just unlucky to follow the most delicious new dysfunctional domestic farce, Rules for Living, that rocked my world at the National Theatre the night before? That totally alive play may have made Noel Coward seem just a tad ancient and slow, or at least this production seemed just so typical and old fashioned in comparison.
The energy of the lead actress, Felicity Kendal, does manage to hold the whole piece together and kept it flying forward dramatically and comically, but I would have loved a bit more danger….and a bit more daring of a production. That would have kept me awake and at the edge of my seat with laughter. Had I seen Hay Fever performed identically another night, not directly after a modern energetic new play, maybe I would have been more charmed by this very British lot. I’ll never know.
But what I do know is that something spectacularly funny is going on at the Duchess Theatre. Mischief Comedy has staged the Olivier winning production of The Play That Goes Wrong, and how right is this play, and how much do I hope to get a chance to see it again over here on Broadway.
Imagine going to see a friendly neighborhood community theatre’s new production. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society haven’t had much success the last few times, as the director tells us at the beginning in his opening curtain speech. Sounds like they have had more disasters then one can imagine, but we, the audience, get behind them, and we wish them luck. So here we are about to watch their new 1920’s style murder mystery play, Murder at Haversham Manor, the play within the play. And like that saying goes, what can go wrong, does go wrong, and boy, do they do it spectacularly. It takes a lot of talent to be this bad and act terribly so well, and this troupe mess up, fall down, get their lines out of sync, and ride this disaster out to the end, miraculously.
The play stars writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields alongside additional cast members Rob Falconer, Dave Hearn, Charlie Russell, Greg Tannahill, and Nancy Wallinger. Mark Bell directs joyously and energetically. All deserve the non-stop laughing and applause they get nightly. There is not a tedious moment in this deliciously performed piece. This is a perfect example of so much Wrong is so delightfully right. Please come over here to Broadway! We would welcome your disaster with open arms.