It takes a great deal of natural comic timing, delivery and skill to perfect performing the work of Noel Coward. His plays call for both insouciance and melodrama simultaneously.
This production, mounted by Logos Theatre Company, who strive to mimic the rep companies of yesteryear by giving drama school graduates the opportunity to perform alongside seasoned professionals: a concept which should be applauded.
The play follows the Bliss family on one mad weekend at their country pile. Unbeknownst to each other, every member of the four strong family has invited a suitor from Friday to Sunday. Cue much discussion about who will take the Japanese room and whether the line servant will be able to manage the catering. What follows is a near-farce, with each family member seducing one of the other’s companions.
In many ways this performance of ‘Hayfever’ is a success: it is a clear telling of a very funny play. The design is simple but effective, with costume and hair totally evocative of the period (but for a startling neon green bow tie and cummerbund) and each line delivered with clean, crisp Coward enunciation.
However, lynchpin of ‘Hayfever’ is the triumvirate of Judith Bliss, a retired actress, and her two children, Simon and Sorrell. For me, these three don’t quite embody the requisite indifference and drama required to carry the play off convincingly. The rest of the cast are stronger, with performances from Olivia Busby and Matt Sheppard particularly noteworthy.
It’s great that a company is showcasing this piece, which is so rarely performed. I just wish they managed showcase Coward in all his glory.
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Hay Fever is playing Upstairs At The Gatehouse until 1 May 2016