The works of infamous playwright Noel Coward seem to be firmly stuck in their time; his characters burst onto the stage in a whirl of one-liners, cigarette smoke and champagne. Yet, for all its 1920s glitz and glamour, Hay Fever deals with universal themes. If you’ve ever cringed at the actions of a parent or attempted to outdo a sibling, the events of the play will seem strangely familiar.
The play focuses on the wildly eccentric Bliss family, each of whom has invited a guest of the opposite sex to stay for the weekend. The catch? They’ve forgotten to tell each other about it. As the four unsuspecting guests descend on the house, they get swept up into the family’s topsy-turvy, melodramatic world.
At the centre of the play is matriarch and ex-actress Judith Bliss, played by a resplendent Felicity Kendal. Whilst the support cast is solid (with especially hilarious turns from Simon Shepherd as Judith’s author husband David and Michael Simkins as the uptight diplomat, Richard Greatham), this is Kendal’s show. Her signature husky voice carries effortlessly and Coward’s play provides the perfect vehicle for her impeccable comic timing. She is simultaneously absurd and magnetic.
Lindsay Posner’s direction makes the most of the stunning set, with the actors running up and down the stairs and in and out of the French doors as the play builds to a crescendo.
Laugh yourself silly at the ridiculous situations, cringe at the awkward silences and marvel at the beautiful, envy-inducing costumes. I defy you not to go home smiling.*
Hay Fever is on at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 1st August. Buy your tickets here!
*Read this review and more of my writing at Indigo Memoirs Magazine.