Theatre: Coward goes bananas
HAY FEVER SAVOY THEATRE LONDON
Wednesday 16 June 1999
Frolicking around like a deranged sprite, throatily emoting like Joan Greenwood in overdrive, McEwan swans and swoons across the furniture, projecting fatal allure and compassionate regretfulness at its effects - both equally spurious. She has all the genuine feyness of an electronic calculator. After a riotous display of squiffy befuddlement - in which she manages to fall off a sofa while still keeping her drink upright - she's instantly back on the ball when Malcolm Sinclair's deliciously distraught diplomat sneaks a kiss and gives her the opportunity for one of those "big moments" with which she and her family ritually humiliate their guests.
Judith has no concept of "offstage" and to highlight the continuity between her trashy past roles and her bad behaviour now, Declan Donnellan's hilariously over-the-top production gives us a flashback to her glory days - a dreadful performance of the hoary melodrama she intends to revive.
Replete with Gothic setting, thunderclaps, and deathless exchanges, this interpolated prelude establishes the mad theatrical grammar on which life at the Blisses is patterned. It also gives a foretaste of their offhand manner of parenting. When her daughter declares that Judith's fond memories of her children in their perambulators have no factual basis, you remember the unceremonious way Judith's character in the melodrama dumped the dummy of beloved "little Pam" so she could continue her maternal histrionics unhampered.
Where bad manners and displays of "artistic" temperament are concerned, Donnellan vigorously ups the pollen count, creating a madhouse in which bananas are proffered instead of cucumber sandwiches, reducing civilised ritual to a chimps' tea party. One would rather weekend with the Macbeths than with the Bliss children, whose un-housetrained weirdness is joltingly conveyed by Monica Dolan and Stephen Mangan. All in all, a Hay Fever not to be sneezed at.
To 14 Aug (0171-836 8888). A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
Seinfeld is laughing all the way to the bank: TV show generates $3.1bn in repeat fees since final episode
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Blade Runner sequel: Harrison Ford confirmed to return with Denis Villeneuve directing
All fiction follows one of six basic storylines, according to new research
House of Cards season 3 premiere, review: Has Frank Underwood gone soft?
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East