Hay Fever at Duke of York’s
Noel Coward’s comedy classic Hay Fever has been delighting audiences since its first run in 1925, and this latest West End revival is no different. Directed by the Olivier Award-winning Lindsay Posner, with a cast headed by the magnificent Felicity Kendal and fresh off successful runs at Bath’s Theatre Royal and in Australia, it’s a production not to be missed.
The play centres around the dysfunctional yet strangely endearing Bliss family who, without informing each other, have each invited a guest down to spend the weekend at their Berkshire home. Judith Bliss (Kendal), a retired star actress, has invited a young, sporty fan Sandy (Edward Killingback); her husband, a reclusive and melodramatic author, has invited a somewhat dense young woman, Jackie (Celeste Dodwell), up “to study in a domestic setting”. Their children, the artistic Simon (Edward Franklin) and spirited Sorel (Alice Orr-Ewing) have invited Myra (Sara Stewart), whom Simon is at least at that moment in love with, and Richard (Michael Simkins), a diplomat who Sorel hopes will be able to teach her to behave better. The four guests are soon thrown into the theatrical whirlwind that is the Bliss family who seem, for the most part, completely oblivious to their own oddness.
The set is beautiful and detailed and the performances are great all round, capturing the spirit of Coward’s classic brilliantly. Kendal seems made for the role of Judith, capturing her dramatic antics and absent-mindedness perfectly; Stewart is excellent too as the vampish, level-headed Myra. The chemistry between the Bliss family actors is wonderful and the dynamic between the four plays out marvellously throughout. The delivery is perfect, witty and just the right amount over-the-top.
There’s romance (of a sort), drama (manufactured by the Blisses, of course) and a healthy dose of family bonding after the bickering, which leaves the viewer with a warm reassuring feeling. Hay Fever seems not to have aged a day, proving Coward right when he claimed that if a comedy was good enough it would live on for centuries. Light-hearted and positively charming, this is the perfect play for warm summer evenings.
Hay Fever is on at Duke of York’s Theatre until 1st August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.