I never imagined I would end up doing a Noel Coward play, I guess my natural style isn’t what directors normally think of when contemplating a Coward piece! But thankfully Dominic Hill , with whom I normally collaborate on more miserable fare such as Endgame or Lear, thought that I would be right for his production of Hayfever which opened at the Lyceum and is now playing at the Citz. I have really enjoyed the vicious wit of Coward’s language and in his creation of the Bliss family, although seemingly an absurd portrayal of selfish behaviour, there is much that strikes a chord of finely observed family life. Silly quallels, sibling rivalry, rudeness all rapidly forgotten as the guests are preyed upon.
As the Bliss family seem to live in a world where they can’t distinguish reality from theatricality it felt appropriate to expose their environment as a theatrical space. I have always found the traditional strange naturalism of box sets with facetted giant walls and french windows onto cycs very un realistic. There is a strange assumption that because the walls seem to be real that the space must be a true reflection of a real space, despite the impossible architectural statements made by the design framed by a theatre proscenium. But Coward asks for a singularly theatrical environment, a single space large enough to contain all the action with staircase to upstairs, a front door, other doors to library and servant’s quarters , and a route to the garden. So i have given the play exactly what was asked for , all the elements are there but exposed within a framework, so all the workings of the theatre are exposed beyond. The garden is revealed as a painted backdrop of a 20s poster style river scene, through which the characters exit via a centre split. The stairs curl up to a second level , but with all the get off routes exposed to the audience. Chris Davey has lit each act with a strong single source lights from outside of the structure highlighting its theatrical unreality.
I have had a great time too collaborating with the cast in the creation of such vivid characters. Susan Woolridge especially as Judith, was a joy to work with and the design process allowed us time with Elaine Coyle the Citz costume supervisor, to really explore and develop the character and all her little quirks !