It will be 100 years old next year, yet Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, in the capable hands of Haslemere Thespians on October 7, was fresh, funny and yes, fabulous.
David Greenwood’s excellent direction resulted in a polished and sparkling evening’s entertainment.
The curtain opened to reveal an elegant and eye-catching set. Instead of starting the play as written with siblings Simon and Sorrel Bliss on stage, we were treated to a silent introduction to the four eccentric family members as they demonstrated their self-absorption in a series of entrances and exits. From the moment the first words were spoken we were then catapulted through a weekend in the turbulent lives of the terrifying Bliss family.
Each family member pursues their desire to be loved and admired by inviting a member of the opposite sex down for the weekend, without consulting or informing each other. The result – chaos – extremely enjoyable chaos if you are watching it rather than living it.
Every character is a joy, David’s cast perfect. Clara, the dresser-turned-housekeeper, was played by Clare Nisbet, who did a wonderful job of showing us the weary but competent sidekick.
The mismatched couples were cleverly put together. Judith Bliss was brilliantly played by newcomer Polly Vaissiére, who gave us a superb rendition of the actress who lives every aspect of her identity as a performance. Her weekend guest was Sandy Tyrell, athletic young boxer, madly in love with Judith’s theatrical persona. Tom Parrott brought a puppyish charm to the part – just right for being swamped by his heroine.
Judith’s husband, David, a writer, was played with customary dapper and roguish humour by Richard Weller, who invited very young flapper Jackie Coryton, totally out of her depth among these glittering monsters. Maddie Chambers gave us an innocent, sweet but by no means silly, young woman.
Zac Rasulian as Simon Bliss, Judith and David’s son, was confident, charming and untroubled by self-doubt. His invitee was played by the marvellous Caroline Thompson, stunningly turned out, oozing dangerous sex appeal as she moved about the stage.
One pairing left – lovable but loathsome Sorrel Bliss, spoilt and entitled beyond belief, was played with utter perfection by Naomi Robertson. The role of her victim – sorry, suitor – the suave diplomat Richard Greatham, was taken by Ed Glass, in control and self-assured, until hilariously brought to his knees by Judith’s manipulative and irresistible performance.