Hay Fever (Noel Coward Theatre)

Posted on March 20, 2012


I love watching productions take risks and seemingly odd left turns when reviving older pieces. We’re quite used to outrageously updated versions of Shakespeare, and while director Howard Davies hasn’t been quite so radical with Noel Coward‘s ‘Hay Fever‘ he has bust the piece open and I for one approve.

The interior of a country cottage has been turned into a semi-dilapidated barn or stables, patched together in all its bohemian beauty – an obvious, but rather beautiful metaphor for the Bliss family. It’s wonderful expansive, multileveled set (and I do get all wet over a good piece of set design).

I instantly fell in love with siblings Simon & Sorel (more than in love with Freddie Fox‘s Simon actually – a foppish little blonde chap. I just want to ruffle his hair, preferably out in the garden, in the sunshine…). The banter is all Coward, but the chemistry is all their own. Lindsay Duncan felt a little out of place in her role of Judith, the mother… not quite relaxed and boho enough for me – but this is a minor quibble.

Our motley cast of outsiders who observe the Bliss’ in all their stupendous horror and are victims to their whims are lovingly played (it took me some time to recognise Jeremy Northam). Olivia Coleman‘s onstage confusion is endearingly fun to behold.

I had heard a few mixed reports about ‘Hay Fever’ before walking in, but I found most of them to be to unwarranted (based on the performance I saw).

For me, this is a fine, but not definitive piece of Coward, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Verdict: I want a weekend in the country now.

Posted in: Play