Timeless joy in master's work

Hay Fever @ Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Hay Fever @ Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

By FRANK CLIFF

Two years after the centenary of Noel Coward's birth, the master's work is still capable of delighting an audience, as the opening performance of this production of Hay Fever by the Oxford Touring Theatre showed.

First produced in 1925, it may portray a very different world yet the appalling behaviour of the bohemian Bliss family – retired actress mother Judith, novelist father David and their quarrelsome children Simon and Sorel – is timeless.

What is even more remarkable is that the play can be so successful when it has so little plot. The Bliss family invite guests for the weekend who rapidly become horrified by this quarrelling family and after a few non- dangerous liaisons they depart.

Dominic Dromgoole's direction makes no attempt to update or “interpret” the play in any new way and Jonathan Fensom's design recreates Coward's stage directions almost to the letter and the result is a great evening's theatre.

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Out of a superb cast Leah Miller is a wonderfully theatrical Judith Bliss but Christopher Luscombe's pompous diplomat takes some beating. The farcical business is hilarious yet Coward's witty dialogue is the real star. Difficult to believe he wrote it in three days.

t Hay fever runs until Saturday June 23.

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