Certain theatrical classics from notorious playwrights will obviously be revived on a number of occasions, but is there a point when their life should finish and never be performed again? The Theatre Royal Bath’s West End transfer of Noël Coward’s 1924 play, ‘Hay Fever’ does show that this is not the case as it was a side-splitting performance with comical depictions.
‘Hay Fever’ is set in the Hall of the Bliss family home, in Cookham June 1924 where we are familiarised with the eccentric Bliss family who consist of retired stage actress, Judith, her novelist husband, David and their children, Simon and Sorel. Each member has invited someone to stay the same weekend, and in the Lavender Room, however neither of them have informed each other about it and as you’d imagine this causes problems almost immediately. Judith has requested that up-and-coming boxer, Sandy Tyrell (Edward Killingback) to the house and both are fans of each other’s work. Her son Simon has asked vampish, Myra Arundel (Sara Stewart) to stay, moreover, Sorel has invited diplomat, Richard Greatham (Michael Simkins) to come and David has called for mindless flapper girl, Jackie Coryton (Celeste Dodwell) to stay the night. Throughout the parlour game in the evening, it appears that the guests are weirded out by the Bliss’ and are ready to escape already. However, the Bliss’ become interested in the other guests; such as Judith and Richard, David and Myra, Sorel and Sandy and finally Simon and Jackie. Judith and her family revel in their own pomposity and when they stage a miniscule section of one of Judith’s acting masterpieces in which is freaks their guests out. The next morning arrives and the guests are up early as all four are frantic to leave and the breakfast cooked and prepared by the Bliss’ servant, Clara (Mossie Smith) cases some commotion and when David pays her for her silence, the four guests soon depart . At the finale, the Bliss family comes down for their breakfasts are unaware of the guest’s departure and talk about David’s completed novel. Coward’s narrative is ecstatically funny as the over haughtiness of the Bliss family and their unique traits does enable us to see how their characteristics will alienate those who cannot identify with them.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Hay Fever’ to be gratifyingly characterised with eloquently pronounced diction. Felicity Kendell is splendid as former leading lady of the stage, Judith; in particular the moment where she does her best acting in a re-enactment of one of her most memorable scenes and how fake her faint looks shows how she is still sought after she is by returning to the stage. Simon Shepherd is conventional as Judith’s husband, David; mainly how he strangely becomes besotted with Myra and when he declares to his wife that he is going to leave her shows his stupidity and how it miffs Myra as she does not want to be in a relationship with him. Alice Orr-Ewing is amusing as Judith’s daughter, Sorel; principally when she argues with her brother about silly things and the realism of the confrontations and her apparent love for boxer, Sandy looks intangible. Edward Franklin is witty as the Bliss’s son, Simon; exclusively how childish he is when he blurts out to his family and guests about his and Jackie’s supposed engagement and you can see how gleaming smile does emancipate and he is oblivious that Jackie doesn’t like him at all.
Lindsay Posner’s direction is brilliant here as he has staged a classic play’s revival in such an effective and this can be shown in the audience’s reaction to the droll dialogue and the presence of Coward is alive here. Peter McKintosh’s design is opulent as I was vastly transfixed into the Bliss’ eccentric persona and there’s an inordinate charm in the construction and scenic painting as well as the decoration of materials etc. Overall, the experience of, ‘Hay Fever’ to be exceptionally funny and a riveting show.