Chichester Festival Theatre: Hay Fever by Noel Coward
If you’re in need of a lift, make sure you catch Hay Fever at Chichester – it’s a delight.
First of all, there’s the script. It doesn’t matter a jot that there isn’t really any plot to speak of in this Twenties romp, when you have Coward’s elegant, witty dialogue to entertain you.
Second, and very close behind, there’s the cast. It’s quality from start to finish with Diana Rigg (as ageing actress and flirt Judith Bliss) and Simon Williams (grumpy writer David Bliss) leading the way, and receiving sterling support from experienced performers Guy Henry (stiff and awkward diplomat Richard Greatham, who daughter Sorel admires), Sue Wallace (put-upon housemaid Clara) and Caroline Langrishe (socialite Myra Arundel, mooned after by son Sam), alongside newer faces Laura Rogers (daughter Sorel Bliss), Sam Alexander (aspiring artist Simon Bliss), Edward Bennett (hopeless goof Sandy Tyrell, yearning for Judith) and Natalie Walter (flapper Jackie Coryton, who David plans to ‘study’).
The interplay between the characters provides much of the entertainment, as a quiet weekend at the Bliss household’s country home turns into a manic relationship mix-up as each has an uninvited guest coming to stay. Whatever the hopes and dreams each had for the stay, they are soon turned on their heads by the determined eccentricities of the Bliss family, at times almost oblivious to their guests.
They row, they argue and show appalling manners all round. Yet they are as quick to make up as a family as to fall out, and the family unit’s strength is clear by the end – despite the effect they have on their guests.
Coward’s writing touches on a number of deeper questions, from class to the search for truth, and while the brilliance of the dialogue and the relationships between the different characters at times disguises this, there is much to be savoured in a production that lifts the spirits – and give you plenty to think on.
Nikolai Foster’s direction is high quality, as you’d expect, and the production features a superb set by Robert Jones.
The production runs until 2 May and you can book tickets online at www.cft.org.uk or by calling 01243 781312.