Blue Sky Theatre Productions

Wickedly entertaining – The Barefoot Review

by admin

The surroundings could not be more beautiful: vast, groomed lawns rolling to reed-filled creeks; gracious gums against a backdrop of summer hills; birdsong; vivid parrots in sweeping fly-bys. There, at glorious Crozier Hill, Victor Harbor, just for the wildly incongruous fun of it, unfolded a tale of the absurd ugliness of the human spirit – mischief, malice, vanity and duplicity.

It was Blue Sky Theatre presenting theatre in the garden under the Open Gardens Scheme. It was the brilliant director Dave Simms with an expertly-picked cast of creamy actors playing out Richard Sheridan’s comedy of manners which, full of greed and envy and lies, lies, lies, is alive and relevant and wickedly entertaining centuries later.

Blue Sky has chosen to bring the 1777 world forward to the 1950s wherein there was still a fairly rigid English class system and gossip columnists had Princess Margaret’s love life as grist for a tabloid mill.

The transition works a treat, especially since the company has sourced the classiest bespoke costumes one has seen on the stage in a very long time, featuring deep pleats, blankets of pearls, fanciful hats, elegant colour co-ordination on the women and suits so slick the men look as if they had just stepped out of a 50s cigarette commercial.

Since backstage was trestle tables behind the rows of plastic seating, the audience could see the lavish array of parlour props which embellished the action – endless silver trays loaded with bone china teacups or champagne and glasses and jugs of Pimms.

Robert Bell as Charles and Lee Cook as Bobby
Robert Bell as Charles and Lee Cook as Bobby

And there under twilight clouds, Sheridan’s wicked society set partied on the grass, the actors all equipped with beautiful, clear, well-projected voices which delivered every diabolical word of conspiracy and folly.

There did Lady Sneerwell preen and plot and there did old Sir Oliver Surface disguise and play-act to dupe and unveil the pretences of their vapid social set.

And there did the audience laugh and sip beautifully dry Picnic rose after picnics on the grass. And there did they all applaud with true spirit and enthusiasm, for Blue Sky had delivered a classy, lovely, elegant, silly and funny production.

Of the marvellous cast, it must be said that Nicole Rutty takes the cream cake for her astute and hilarious characterisation as Lady Sneerwell. Never did an actor sneer so well. She’s surrounded by fellow gossips, conspiratorial and sly.

Adrian Barnes swaps accents with the ease and alacrity with which he swaps disguises as the rich old uncle Surface home from the East Indies to see what his money-sucking nephews are up to. He’s fool and hero and funny. Lee Cook and Robert Bell embody those two spoiled Surface nephews, both with gorgeous, apt and amusing performances and, oh, those suits. Steve Marvanek, as Sir Peter Teazle, is clearly a rising talent in town as is Ashley Penny, disarming and charming as Maria. Joshua Coldwell plays both the gossip columnist Backbite and the crooked financier Tally – almost unrecognisable in effective characterisation. Kate Van Der Horst is an unusual Lady Teazel, a young woman as vicious as she is opportunistic. Van Der Horst plays her distinctly lower class than the society pack, a questionable but effective interpretation. Angela Short is eminently pleasing as awful Mrs Candour and Miriam Keane is gloriously loathsome as Miss Snake. The only actor who does not get to be loathed or pitied is Lindy LeCornu as dear, sweet, faithful, reliable old Nanny Rowley. People in the industry would know that as type casting.

The actors double up in roles and there are marvellous ensemble entries dancing in trench coats with newspapers.

When the cool of a country evening began to set in at interval, Blue Sky distributed cosy knee rugs to those who had arrived unprepared; a brilliant gesture.

And thus the opening night at verdant Crozier Hill was quite the old-fashioned triumph and the picnicked audience went away well pleased to spread the good word; this critic happily among them.

Samela Harris