"expert casting, direction and design"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 16/04/2016
This is one of the most popular and frequently produced Noel Coward plays. It is high comedy, dependent on the casting and the direction to make it work. Sadly it is often performed without due care and one miscast actor can make it into a really depressing production.
The Bliss family are bohemian, they are rude, insincere and spend their time quarrelling or playing games – often both at the same time.
Judith Bliss is a famous actress who has retired but talks of going back on the stage. One suspects that she says this several times a month. She turns the whole of life into a game understood by the family but like torture to any unfortunate guests who are the buts of this jokey behaviour..
So we have to have a company of actors that are loveable as well as funny in order to accept their rudeness and silliness.
At the Gatehouse. Brian Hands has done a great job. Of course, he does have the wonderful theatrical couple Judi Bowker and Harry Meacher playing the leads Judith and David Bliss, she the famous actress, he the novelist. They fight all the time and their children Simon and Sorrel behave in exactly the same way.
Each of the four Bliss family has invited a guest to spend the weekend at the Bliss's country house. What they have done is neglected to tell the rest of the family of the invitations. They each fight for the Japanese room for their guest but it eventually means that one honoured guest has to sleep in the boiler room. They have also neglected to get in enough food so there is not much to eat so nobody is in the best of moods.
That is the basis of this very funny play and it is taken to extreme length when the Bliss family start the games.
It is so unusual to find an ensemble which is so integrated with each other. And we must congratulate Brian Hands on his expert casting and direction.
Production values at the Gatehouse are always splendid and we must give a special nod to the design team George Galkin and John Dalton and costume designer Andrew McRobb who made Mrs Bliss's opening dress. Beautiful!
If you want a good laugh there is nowhere better to be at the moment than the Gatehouse. But book soon it is only on for three weeks.
It takes a great deal of natural comic timing, delivery and skill to perfect performing the work of Noel Coward. His plays call for both insouciance and melodrama simultaneously.
This play, mounted by Logos Theatre Company, follows the Bliss family on one mad country weekend. Unknown to each other, every member of the four strong family has invited a suitor. Cue much discussion about who will take the Japanese room and whether the servant will be able to manage the catering. What follows is a near farce.
This is a clear telling of a very funny play. The design is simple but effective, with costume and hair totally evocative of the period and each line delivered with clean, crisp Coward enunciation, and performances from Olivia Busby and Matt Sheppard particularly noteworthy.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter on West End Wilma