They say the old ones are the best and this is certainly true about this scintillating production of Noel Coward’s evergreen comedy, which is as full of vitality as when The Master wrote it in 1924.
Carol Hawkins was magnificent in the pivotal role of retired actress Judith Bliss, who conducts her life in a state of perpetual melodrama as if she was permanently onstage.
Her song at the piano was a highlight of the show, and well applauded by a packed audience.
Almost on a par with her histrionic reaction, ‘My husband must be told’, when chastely kissed by the dull diplomat (see below).
Geoff O’Hara was the perfect foil as her husband, David, who is quietly writing novels up in his study but gets caught up in the mayhem when each member of his bohemian family has invited a guest to stay the weekend.
Son Simon (James Holland) is anxious to enjoy the experience of an older woman and invites the sharp-tongued Myra (Christine Odium) whilst daughter Sorel has sent for Richard Greatham (John Ellis), a stuff-shirt diplomat, hoping to do something similar with an older man.
With a view to collecting research for his books, or so he proclaims, David has invited along an innocent ingénue, Jackie (Emma Lakeland,) whilst Judith’s guest is a bewildered toy boy, Sandy (James McAlpine) who is expecting to meet a ravishing young beauty. What a shock he gets.
Completing the cast was Marion Yardley as Clara the maid whose stony-fraced expressions spoke volumes.
The hapless guests are taunted throughout by this rude and eccentric family. Forced to play silly, humiliating parlour games and frightened to make a move in case they are jumped on, the four of them finally manage to creep unseen out of the house as the family argue among themselves in a hilarious finale.
The costumes and the set would have done justice to ‘Downton Abbey’ and under the excellent direction of Marilyn Brandwood-Spencer, ’Hay Fever’ will always be remembered as one of this talented company’s great successes.