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Hay Fever at the Noël Coward theatre

Published 12 May 2015

What’s it all about?

With spring pollen already out in force, we could do without any more hay fever in London at the moment. Thankfully, this isn’t THAT type of hay fever and there will be no sufferers at the hands of Noël Coward’s classic comedy of manners. Apart from the four helpless guests who are invited to stay at the Bliss family’s Berkshire home, that is.

With more visitors than the poor house maid knows what to do with, a party of epically awkward proportions ensues as the family’s overwhelmingly outlandish matriarch Judith, her novelist husband and their two adult children take their titles as the ultimate hosts from hell.

Who’s in it?

Felicity Kendal leads the cast as the glamorous and eccentric Judith, bringing all the theatrical aplomb needed in the role of the retired actress whose living room has become her stage and her guests an incidental audience.

Alice Orr-Ewing is an equally high contender in the nutty ranks as Kendal’s on-stage daughter Sorel, but remains more aware of how deranged her family is than the rest of her oddball relatives.

Simon Shepherd and Edward Franklin complete the quartet of hellish hosts as the self-absorbed David and his unconventional son Simon, while Sara Stewart, Michael Simkins, Celeste Dodwell and Edward Killingback unite in despair as the victims who are all too eager to escape.

What should I look out for?

Kendal’s performance of the adverb ‘winsomely’ in a game, not all that popular among the guests, that sees the lady of the household saunter across the stage, flower stem in hand, with a child-like charm that roused much laughter among the press night audience. If there were an Olivier Award for Best Performance of the Word ‘Winsomely’, we have our winner.

In a nutshell?

Felicity Kendal is a deliciously comic Judith Bliss in this West End revival of Noël Coward’s classic comedy of bad manners.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@PeakeTweets #Hayfever @dukeofyorksLDN an absolute delight. Comedic perfection from Kendal & faultless cast. @EdKillingback gorgeous. Great fun, go see!!

Will I like it?

The first London production of Coward’s classic since Lindsay Duncan led the play’s preposterous proceedings in 2012, Lindsay Posner’s revival, complete with Peter McKintosh’s fabulous 1920s set, is a welcome addition to the West End stage. The production has already proved its worth at the Theatre Royal Bath and Kendal will no doubt continue to win over audiences with her delightfully dotty portrayal of the thespian mother in this enduring classic in the months to come.

Hay Fever is playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 1 August. You can book tickets through us.

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