First night review First night review September Tide by Daphne Du Maurier Staging a season of repertory plays is a risky thing for a theatre to do nowadays.

Star names tend to sell tickets and repertory seasons by their very nature feature actors who are not familiar to the audience.

So far the risk seems to be paying off at Windsor’s Theatre Royal. Its season of repertory productions is half over now and attendance figures have not been at all bad.

But the third play in the season this week was always going to be the real test.

September Tide by Daphne Du Maurier is not a farce or a thriller like the first two productions were.

It was first performed in 1948, when it was a vehicle for legendary theatre star Gertrude Lawrence.

Subsequent revivals have tended to rely on a star name in the leading role – that of a middle aged woman called Stella led into temptation when her daughter’s husband falls in love with her.

So how can a 57 year old play about a love affair that never goes anywhere fare in the crazy world of 21st century Britain?

Judging by opening night on Tuesday – rather well.

Du Maurier was after all a best selling novelist with a knack for creating memorable character. She knew exactly how to create a spell on the page, or on the boards.

When saturnine artist Evan and his mother-in-law Stella find themselves left alone in the house with a raging storm outside, there is a real sense that anything could happen. Actually nothing much does, but it does not matter.

A bit of bother in the harbour outside as the sea dislodges a boat briefly suggests Du Maurier’s masterpiece novel Rebecca. When Evan reappeared from the water dripping wet and in need of drying off you could have heard a pin drop in the Theatre Royal.

Don’t giggle, it works. They must have fainted in 1948.

The audience is hooked – wondering what will happen. Will Evan and his wife Cherry’s marriage survive? Will mum-in-law let her hair down?

All achieved without a single star name – thanks to the late, great Miss Du Maurier.

Ellen Verenieks as the warm hearted and lonely Stella brings great charm and vulnerability to the role.

While James Lawrence as ambiguous, charming Evan smoulders powerfully throughout.

Sarah Dungworth as his initially annoying wife Cherry plays her role skilfully, suggesting a warm, likeable person hiding her deeper fears behind ‘attitude’.

Max Reynolds’ direction is detailed and careful – much helped by a convincing austerity set, all peeling wallpaper and comfy, faded sofas.

lSeptember Tide continues its run at Theatre Royal Windsor, in Thames Street until tomorrow (Saturday). Evening performances are at 8pm and Saturday matinee at 4.45pm. To book visit or call the box office on 01753 853 888.

Coming up: The Simon and Garfunkel Story, Sunday at 7.30pm.

FRANCIS BATT To celebrate the return of repertory theatre to Windsor, The Royal Borough Observer has teamed up with Theatre Royal Windsor to give our readers an exclusive offer on tickets.

Observer readers can claim their tickets for Joking Apart for the special price of £12.50 per ticket.

To claim this price, readers have to quote ‘ReaderOffer’ when booking either in person at the Theatre Royal box office or by telephoning 01753 853 888, or by typing in ‘ReaderOffer’ into the discount code section when booking tickets online at The £12.50 tickets are only available for new purchases and cannot be used against tickets already bought for the Repertory Season plays, or as part of the six-for-the-price-of-four multi-play deal. This Exclusive Reader Offer expires on Tuesday June 16.

AUDIENCES are invited to spend an evening with an eccentric and somewhat self-absorbed family from Cookham between Tuesday and Saturday, June 20, as Noel Coward’s classic comedy Hay Fever appears at Theatre Royal Windsor as part of the 2015 Windsor Repertory Season.

Set in 1925, the action in Coward’s witty and entertaining script takes place in the Bliss family’s country home in Cookham.

The Bliss family comprises of Judith, the recently retired but once glittering star of the London stage, her husband David, an egocentric novelist, and their two Bohemian adult children Sorel and Simon, who are incapable of sharing the spotlight.

Unconventional, risqué, and often downright rude, they are everything a respectable English family should not be.

When each member of the family invites a guest to their rural retreat, the unfortunate weekend guests – a diplomat, a flapper, a fan and a vamp – are repeatedly thrown into melodramatic scenes where their hosts profess emotions and react to situations that do not exist. The resulting comedic chaos means misjudged meetings, secret seductions and scandalous revelations proliferate during one outrageous weekend in Berkshire.

With its wit, precision and sheer outrageousness, Noel Coward’s Hay Fever is often seen as a quintessentially English comedy, and has been a favourite among theatre goers since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925.

Noel Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit and flamboyance.

Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards.

Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Brief Encounter, Fallen Angels, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire.

Coward’s stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works, and wrote popular songs such as ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’.

The 2015 Windsor Repertory Season, staged between Tuesday May, 26 and Saturday July, 4 celebrates the theatre’s illustrious history of repertory theatre, presenting six plays in the classic weekly repertory structure with the same company of actors rehearsing and performing the plays.

With a range of play genres on offer from farce and comedy to thriller and modern, it is a chance to enjoy a regular night out enjoying the work of some of the best playwrights this country has produced.

Hay Fever is the fourth of six plays performed each week from Tuesday to Saturday in The Windsor Repertory Season.

The other plays already staged include Pardon Me, Prime Minister, Sweet Revenge by Francis Durbridge and September Tide by Daphne Du Maurier which runs until tomorrow (Sunday).

Joking Apart by Alan Ayckbourn is next from June 23-27, and Amy’s View by David Hare will run from June 30 to July 4.

Tickets range in price from £10-£20 and are available from the box office on 01753 853888 or from the venue’s website: by Rebecca Curley