Summer Hay Fever to Sweep the RegionalsDate: 3 May 2001
One of Noel Coward's most popular plays, Hay Fever, goes out on a national tour from May to July, courtesy of the Oxford Stage Company. Opening in Theatr Clwyd Cymru on 3 May, the production then heads to Bristol, Huddersfield, Exeter, Bury St Edmunds, Windsor and finally Cheltenham.
First performed in 1925, Hay Fever is a comedy of manners, written by Coward in a three-day creative frenzy. The play was inspired by the American actress Laurette Taylor, and her husband Hartley, with whom Coward was intimate. He recalled "shrill arguments concerning family rules, which frequently ended up with all four of them leaving the room." Such was their legendary eccentricity that Coward wrote, "I am only grateful to Fate that no guest of Hartley's thought of writing Hay Fever before I did."
In Coward's story, a bohemian actress and her writer husband live in a rural haven with their precocious son and daughter. However, when everybody decides to invite a guest down for the weekend, the quirky family are revealed in all their madcap glory. The guests become pawns in several games as the family's emotional wreckage begins to mount.
Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director of Oxford Stage Company, directs a cast which stars Estelle Kohler as Judith Bliss and Jonathan Newth as her husband David. Kohler's credits include An Inspector Calls, Hedda Gabler at Sheffield's Crucible and the television drama Flight of the Heron. Newth is a familiar face from the television series Bugs and Peak Practice. The production follows recent successful ventures for the company, including The Circle, The Wexford Trilogy and The Contractor.
Hay Fever was famously revived at the National Theatre under Coward's direction in 1964. Expressing gratitude for the opportunity, Coward claimed, "now I am truly a legend." He was knighted in 1970 and died three years later.
- by Gareth Thompson