Review author – Jon Fox, Noda

In true showbiz style Nomads brilliantly overcame, at least in performance, the dreadful blow of losing their inspirational and much loved director, Alan Wiseman, rather suddenly and barely a month before the performance. Jeff Wightwick, himself an experienced director stepped in under these awful circumstances and, as this review will reveal, both directors served up a special fare for the audience.

Aided by Elaine Burns, Alan’s partner, as production manager with a dedicated team backing them, Nomads did full justice to one of Coward’s most sparkling plays. Having, shamefully, seen this play only once before and that over 40 years ago, I was as excited as a child at Christmas upon arrival at this special and charming theatre.

The setting is the Bliss family’s country house at a summer weekend, where all four family members, separately, and unknown to the others, each invite a guest for the weekend. As the plot unravels each guest comes to regret accepting their own invitation and eventually conspire to escape, as discretely as they can, leaving the family on their own to comment “how very rude” some guests are.

Judith Bliss, a retired actress, is married to David, a novelist, and mother to two children Simon and Sorel. Judith is a peach of a role for an accomplished actress and Philippa Galloway gave this most theatrical of characters full reign to show her fine range of theatrical emotions. It was a classy performance, though somewhat marred by a number of prompts. However, to be fair, it was on the first night when I attended. I particularly liked her ludicrous over-reaction to her young admirer’s chaste kiss. Coward was a wonderful observer and chronicler of the foibles of others.

Nathan Farrell as that young admirer, besotted by Judith, endowed Sandy Tyrell with a deliciously stiff, oh so English, gaucheness. The bewilderment and passion behind the stiff facade though, came through beautifully.

As bickering sister and brother Sorel and Simon, Sarah Mullins and Daniel Shepherd were pure middle class delight. So right on and sophisticated! Each more so than the other, or so they think. This sibling relationship was as real as real could possibly be in the Bliss madhouse. Admirably acted!

Carol McGlone as Clara, a world weary housekeeper and former dresser to Judith gave a highly amusing cameo. Her half opening only of the front door and hurried disappearance to leave the befuddled guests, unwelcomed and left behind was a comic joy. This world weariness was an excellent foil to the theatricality of the family members.

Paul Asher, cast as David Bliss, the husband and father, seemed at first almost normal whilst deeply intent on finishing his latest novel. Bit by bit we became aware that he, too, was in his own way playing games and using his young guest, a most discomfitted young flapper, Jackie Coryton, played skilfully by Ellie Sayer with near hysteria upon being forced to play charades with the family and other guests. Both Paul and Ellie in their very different ways “suffered” wonderfully well and just when I thought Jackie was in distinct danger of being relatively normal, but happily, not so!

Moyra Brookes as the vampish older woman guest of Simon, Myra Arundel and caught kissing David by Judith, gave an assured performance of this marvellous character. She had some of the best lines and was well cast in this role, playing the vamp for all she was worth.

Richard Greatham, played by Graham Botterill was a diplomat invited by Sorel. Graham played the dumbfounded Richard who, upon kissing Judith, finds himself the victim of Judith’s acting game. I really felt sorry for poor old Richard, so cruelly used by the – shall we say unconventional – Judith.

There was a great deal to like in all the acting and though several cast members dried a time or two, the essential pace of the bizarre play and the truth of the characters shone through.

The set was a realistic portrayal of a comfortably furnished and well heeled family home belonging to theatrical folk. Coward’s marvellous words are of course a great advantage for any actor or actors worth their salt to speak. The cast took full advantage and made the play the great success it undoubtably was.

Jenny Hasted’s costumes were detailed, well fitted and most appropriate. Lighting by Tony and Dee Bowdery was handled with their usual skill.

Despite the unfortunate and difficult circumstances of Alan’s untimely passing, the company did him and Jeff proud. No wonder Nomads have such a good reputation in Mid-Surrey.

Jon Fox – Noda

The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.

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