Hay Fever (Oldham)

Coliseum Theatre, Oldham

There are some plays where it’s clear that the actors are having just as much fun as the audience and this production of Hay Fever at the Coliseum is one such example. Director Kevin Shaw knows better than to mess with one of Noel Coward’s greatest works, instead he gives it all the tools to show it off in the best possible way.

The Bliss family is made up of actress Judith Bliss, who though retired never stops acting, her author husband David and their two precocious children Simon and Sorel. When each separately invites a guest to stay at their country home over the weekend, they invite an audience into their theatrical family drama.

At first it is difficult to immerse oneself in the language, but that doesn’t last long. Despite the eighty-nine years that have passed since Hay Fever was written, Coward’s wit, humour and characters continue to stand out.

Kevin Shaw has assembled a cast that can give full justice to the script. Jackie Morrison is superb as the self-absorbed Judith Bliss, demanding at every turn to be the centre of attention. She has a rival in the spoilt Sorel (Caitlin Thorburn) whose attempts at trying to entertain and ‘improve’ are so blatantly put on.

Amongst the visitors to the Bliss household, Polly Lister’s Mayra is magnificent, statuesque and fierce. She hams it up brilliantly and it’s great to see her transformation from the outspoken and slightly frightening woman who has Simon eating out of her hand, to being cowered by the family’s eccentricities.

The design of the set is beautifully put together by Dawn Alsopp. Perhaps the house could have been a little more Bohemian and less perfect looking, but then again that could be a reflection of Judith playing the part of the country housewife.

Hay Fever is a joy to watch. It’s brilliantly acted, quick and funny, the perfect summer play.

– Joanna Ing