I don’t always make it through the Oxfordshire lanes to the gorgeous, eccentric, water-wheeled Mill at Sonning, but the thought of Issy van Randwyck as Judith Bliss in Hay Fever lured me. Caught the show en route to the airport, so I started writing this on a Croatian long-distance bus.
‘Feels less spicy & naughty than once it did’: HAY FEVER – Sonning ★★★
Seeing Hay Fever at the lovely Mill at Sonning, not far from the Thames-side village Cookham, where Coward’s play is actually set, feels almost like immersive theatre. It also feels a little like stepping back in time to a gentler era. Some people may find it a little staid, but it’s not hard to see why it proves so perennially popular.
‘Classy staging & nicely judged mood’: WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS – Sonning
This is the sort of fare that might have run for years on Shaftesbury Avenue in the mid- 20th century and, despite references to Brexit and the internet, and the use of mobile phones, We’ll Always Have Paris at The Mill at Sonning feels like a throwback to that simpler era.
‘I actively enjoyed the datedness’: BAREFOOT IN THE PARK – Sonning
Barefoot In The Park at the Mill at Sonning is a squib, a frivolity, a period piece. An escape. Which frankly, on Boris-Meltdown Day was no bad thing. Thank you all.
‘The dance has a dizzying, hypnotic effect on everyone’: TOP HAT – The Mill at Sonning ★★★★
How does Irving Berlin’s musical do on a smaller scale? Excellently, not least because the extraordinary percussive mass tap-sessions are even more exciting right up close.
‘A touch of 1920s glamour & toe-tapping musical entertainment’: TOP HAT – Sonning
Jack Butterworth as Jerry Travers and co-star Billie-Kay as Dale Tremont dance their way through the confusion of mistaken identity as to whether they will or won’t get together.
‘Clean & crisp’: PRIVATE LIVES – Sonning
Tam Williams’ production of Private Lives at the Mill at Sonning is clean and crisp, nicely framed with a lady accordoniste setting the location, and after a slowish start the piece moves up a gear in the scenes involving all four characters, and especially in two well-choreographed fights.
‘A real Christmas treat’: GUYS & DOLLS – Sonning
With the definitive MGM film never far from mind, it can be hard to find an original spin to put on Guys & Dolls. Joseph Pitcher’s production doesn’t stray far from the 1955 version but the young cast brings a verve and energy which gives the whole piece a vital boost
‘Remains a ripping yarn & a jolly entertaining night’: THE UNEXPECTED GUEST – Sonning
If you fancy an evening of cutting-edge, experimental, hard-hitting theatre, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you want to see a British institution, directed by a British institution, in thoroughly British surroundings, The Unexpected Guest remains a ripping yarn and a jolly entertaining night.