With only two weeks of its limited run left we were really glad to get a chance to see Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre last night (21 May) on one of our Whatsonstage.com Group Outings. The first time a Noel Coward play has been performed in the theatre since it was renamed it was a treat to see a large-scale revival of this 1925 comedy.
Lindsay Duncan leads the cast as the matriach of the Bliss family, Judith. Once a glittering star of the stage she is now in early retirement in her country home where she lives with writer husband (Kevin R McNally) and two eccentric children Sorel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Simon (Freddie Fox). In an effort to spice up her country-life she invites a young suitor to join her for the weekend, not realising that her husband and both children have also invited their own guests along too. Secret seductions, revelations and all sorts of misjudged meetings ensue and of course Judith Bliss must be the star of the show - but who in the Bliss family isn't playing a part? Coward's satire of the 1920s artistic elite is cloaked in farce and Howard Davies' direction ensues that the comic potential of this period piece is fully realised from long-drawn out pauses to perfectly paced wooings.
Following the performance we were joined by Kevin R McNally, Freddie Fox, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the Blisses) along with Jeremy Northam, Sam Callis and Amy Morgan (the put-upon guests) who told us just how they maintain those long pauses and why they wanted to be involved in this production as well as their experience of Coward's plays in general. Whether they like the Blisses or not was another talking point with Waller-Bridge arguing that being one is fun but she certainly wouldn't like to visit them. And last but not least, we learnt about an inflatable sheep (called Noel) that lives backstage and may (or may not) be used, if company members are feeling naughty, to distract the actors on stage!
As always, please feel free to email your comments and thoughts about the play, as well as any of your favourite insights from last night to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.