This production is a fine finale to what has been an outstanding summer season at the Theatre Royal. Hay Fever was inspired by Coward’s visit to America when he was entertained at the home of American actress Laurette Taylor and Hartley Manners. Here, Coward’s superb comedy of manners places the Bliss family in their country home alongside a parade of unassuming guests. All of whom are made to witness their game playing, family disputes and play acting; at times the edges blur and the result is highly entertaining. The key to the success of this production is Director Lindsay Posner who has worked his magic to find space and even silence between the bickering to allow the comedy to take on a new shape and it is really is a breath of fresh air.

Felicity Kendal is excellent as the new retired actress Judith Bliss, whose need for attention is quite overpowering. Her bohemian and petulant children Alice Orr-Ewing (Sorel Bliss) and Edward Franklin (Simon Bliss) ensure the family dynamics are both explosive as well and utterly bewildering to the visitors. Simon Shepherd (David Bliss) completes the family whose exploits eventually drive out their guests.

The summer season has had some bold choices this year all of which have been huge artistic successes; whilst it could be argued that Hay Fever is the safe box office show this is a production of great quality. It is without question a master class in comedy from Felicity Kendal however; the fine direction brings a new lease of life to this much performed classic and for that reason alone should not be missed.

**** (4 stars)

Petra Schofield

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