Peter Hall’s much-anticipated revival of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, starring Dame Judi Dench and Peter Bowles, has confirmed dates at the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket (See News, 23 Sep 2005). The production will have a strictly limited season from 19 April to 5 August 2006 (previews from 6 April). Booking opens this Sunday 29 January 2006.

Dench was last at the Haymarket in 2002, when she appeared with fellow Dame Maggie Smith in David Hare’s sell-out The Breath of Life. Her other recent London theatre credits include All's Well That Ends Well, for which she won a Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress, at the Gielgud in 2004; The Royal Family at the Haymarket in 2001/02 (alongside her Hay Fever co-star Bowles, again directed by Hall); Filumena at the Piccadilly in 1999; Amy's View at the National in 1997 and at the Aldwych in 1998 and A Little Night Music at the National in 1995/96. She’s due to return to the RSC’s Stratford home later this year to appear in a musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor as part of the company’s year-long Complete Works Festival (See News, 11 Jul 2005).

In Hay Fever, bohemian actress Judith Bliss (Dench) and her writer husband live in a rural haven with their precocious son and daughter. When various guests are invited down for the weekend, they become pawns in the family’s emotional, madcap games.

First performed in 1925, the comedy of manners was inspired by the eccentric American actress Laurette Taylor, and her husband Hartley, and written by Coward in just three days. It was last seen in the West End at the Savoy in 1999 production directed by Declan Donnellan and starring Geraldine McEwan as Judith.

Bowles, who recently starred in Joe and I at the King’s head Theatre, is signed up to appear opposite Dench in the new production, which will also feature Belinda Lang, Kim Medcalf, Charles Edwards and Dan Stevens. Bowles’ other recent West End credits include Wait Until Dark at the Garrick in 2003 and Sleuth at the Apollo in 2002. Hay Fever is produced by Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt.

Another Kenwright production, Michael Rudman’s revival of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons starring Martin Shaw, will finish its run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 1 April 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell