Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre

On Friday night I headed to the Noel Coward theatre on St Martin’s Lane, just behind Leicester Square, to watch Hay Fever.

Written in 1924 and set in the same era, Hay Fever is staged in an English manor house in Cookham, Buckinghamshire, home to the Bliss family.

The play starts on a Saturday morning, where we discover the whole Bliss family who have each invited a guest for the weekend and promised them the Japanese room, without informing the others:

Sorel – moody, 19 and wanting to better herself, she has invited a diplomat for the weekend

Simon – an artiste, and brother of Sorel, he has invited Myra, an older woman which his mother Judith loathes

Judith – ex-celebrated actress, she is now feeling her age and to compensate, she has invited a young boxing champion, Rusty

David – famous novelist and bread and butter winner, he has invited a flapper to entertain him

Needless to say the weekend descends into a rather entertaining farce!

The set is beautiful – shabby chic, white washed walls, canvases in a corner, 1920s lounging sofas, a grand piano and large French windows giving out onto ‘the garden’. The characters flit in and out of this main sitting room into the latter and upstairs to the bedrooms, into the library, the kitchen, the front door, …the whole house comes to life from the one room, a very clever way to set the scene and focus the audience’s attention not on what’s changed set wise from act to act, but the progression of the plot itself.

The costumes are beautifully 1920s (perfectly catching on to this year’s Gatsby trend). Judith’s green evening wear (pictured above) makes her resemble an Aztec princess. The children (young adults to be fair) spend half their time lounging around in silk dressing gowns and slouchy striped pyjama bottoms though even they manage to scrub up nicely.

The guests also have some great costumes – Myra, a true Londoner, has black and red dropped waist dresses, all the latest fashions. The flapper is all rosy pinks and floaty fabrics, the diplomat suited and the boxer smart yet rugged….very satisfying cast to look at!

 

What Hay Fever truly manages to capture, be it in the 1920s when it was written, or now, is the incredible ennui that humans experience. In this context it is the rich who go to extreme lengths to entertain themselves but we could apply this to modern society as well…it is only through entertainment that we distinguish days from others and make life count!

So hear hear to Hay Fever and pip pip!

 

 

Cast Information (taken from The Noel Coward Theatre website)

Lindsay Duncan leads the cast of Hay Fever. Lindsay is an Olivier Award-winning actress who has performed in numerous plays, television shows and films such as Doctor Who and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, in which she plays Alice’s mother. Joining Lindsay in the cast is Jeremy Northam who is best-known for his role as Ivor Novello in the 2001 film Gosford Park. Co-starring in Hay Fever is Olivia Colman who has acted in television programmes such as The Peep Show, and Kevin McNally who is known for playing Joshamee Gibbs in The Pirates of the Caribbean films.

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