Noel Coward’s classic comedy of bad manners, Hay Fever is a real theatrical gem. The current English touring production of his play, starring Felicity Kendal (The Good Life, Rosemary & Thyme), sparkles brighter than any diamond.
The story of the eccentric, bohemian Bliss family – actress mother, writer father, artist son and spoilt ingénue daughter – who each invite, unbeknownst to the others, a guest to spend a weekend at their country house, is written as an ensemble piece. Even though Ms Kendal is the ‘big name’, the rest of the cast for this production are every bit as skilled and talented. This is a cast that exemplify the true meaning of the words ‘ensemble acting’: absolutely brilliant work from all.
Edward Franklin and Alice Orr-Ewing are the spoilt, petulant siblings from Hell and do it so well. Orr-Ewing is particularly good when it comes to delivering precociousness, with her Act Two ‘hissy fit’ coming across as horrifically real.
Simon Shepherd bellows beautifully as David Bliss; whilst Lisa Armytage delivers a stereotypical drawing room comedy housemaid perfectly. James Corrigan (Sandy) and Celeste Dodwell (Jackie) are wonderfully innocent, awkward and gormless, adding well to the comedy; with Sara Stewart dripping acidic barbs ever so nicely all over the place as Myra; and Michael Simkins being ever so British and ever so watchable as diplomat, Richard. His antics during the game played in Act Two are hilarious and almost steal the show.
Ms Kendal brings a wonderful vivaciousness and vibrancy to the delightful role of Judith Bliss, which proves beyond doubt why she is the leading lady of the stage that she is. While being wickedly delightful and lighting up the stage whenever she appears, Kendal never once upstages any of the other fine actors.
Director Lindsay Posner has moved the action well and makes sure that his cast deliver every joke – verbal and non-verbal – perfectly
The stunning 1920s set and costumes designed by Peter McKintosh assist extremely well in making this a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable piece of entertaining theatre. Don’t let ‘hay fever’ stop you from seeing Hay Fever.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre 58 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 3 – 7 December 2014
Duration: 2 hours including interval
Tickets: $89.90 – $119.90
Bookings: Book through BASS online or phone 131 246