Hay Fever at Strode Theatre, Street

revu-hayfever2“WHERE ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise,” as Thomas Grey elegiacally said.

Not the sort of thing The Master opined, but he instead gave us a sort of Bliss that has endured 90 years of performance and still turns up trumps.

The Street Theatre production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, on stage in Street until 15th March, is an Art Deco delight, thanks to Bob Price’s stylish set, straight out of Eltham Palace.

Judith Bliss in an actress, still served by her dresser, and living with her writer husband David, her artist son Simon and her daughter Sorel. Now in their early 20s, the “children” have grown up with the scripts, favourite lines and impossible stories that have made their parents famous. Their family dynamic is not like that of other people.

Hay Fever is set over one weekend, when, unbeknown to the others, each of the Blisses has invited a house guest.

Sorel, trying to be “normal”, has found a stuffy diplomat. Simon has fallen for a married vamp. David has asked a young flapper, to observe as material for his latest book. And Judith has a hearty young athlete in thrall.

Dresser-cum-housekeeper Clara is horrified by this sudden influx, to a house where there is only one reasonable guest bedroom and where no provisions have been laid in.

But the show must go on, and with Judith Bliss around, it certainly does.revu-hayfever

Director Dennis Barwell has a perfect ear for the Coward dialogue and style, and he is brilliantly served by his very talented cast, led from centre stage by Jenny Hancock as the drama queen to end them all, Judith.

Company regular Iain Muton-Phillips is a revelation as the wonderfully awkward and proper Richard the diplomat, and Matt Townsend, recently so impressive in Equus, is the lovely Sandy the suitor. Elaine Hayne’s Brummie Clara is a very odd and comic housekeeper.

Eliane Morgan and Kevin Hardacre are the squabbling siblings, with Jerry Jeremiah as David Bliss, Hilary Quinlan as Myra and Morwenna Ridgeon as the unfortunate Jackie.

Hay Fever is full of memorable moments and extravagant gestures, and, as the poor guests leave, the Blisses behaviour never misses a beat nor their “conversation” a single cue.

It really is Bliss.


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