Dame Judi Dench wowed the critics at the opening last week (Thursday 20 April 2006) of Peter Hall’s new production of Noel Coward’s classic comedy Hay Fever at the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket (See Friday’s News for our Reviews Round-up).

In Hay Fever, bohemian actress Judith Bliss (Dench) and her writer husband David (played by Peter Bowles) 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.

At the Haymarket, Dench and Bowles are joined in the cast by Kim Medcalf, Dan Stevens, Belinda Lang, William Chubb, Charles Edwards, Lin Blakley and Olivia Darnley. The production is presented by Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt and continues until 5 August 2006.

For 1st Night Photos, we’ve gathered a selection of shots from the Hay Fever opening night party at the Langham Hilton - attended by the company as well as director Sir Peter Hall, the producers and celebrity guests including Julian Clary and Jeffrey Archer – and production shots of the cast in action on stage.

(party photos from Rex Features)

Judi Dench arrives at the party
Director Peter Hall with Peter Bowles
Julian Clary with Kim Medcalf (Sorel Bliss)

(production photos by Catherine Ashmore)

Judi Dench
Peter Bowles & Judi Dench
Belinda Lang & Peter Bowles
Kim Medcalf & Charles Edwards
Dan Stevens, Judi Dench, Kim Medcalf & Peter Bowles (as the Blisses)
The entire cast