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REVIEW | Hay Fever | Crescent Theatre Company

Hay Fever at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, Review by Amy Stutz

Photography © Graeme Braidwood

The comedic play Hay Fever by Noel Coward, first produced in 1925, is the story of a terribly British but highly eccentric family.

Set in the 20s, the family invite guests over to stay and due to their outlandish behaviour, their guests soon plan to make a swift departure. The story is told through a melodramatic style with the interjection of sarcasm and wit, the cast of nine master this excellently.

It opens exquisitely in the English countryside, the staging is bright with flowers creating the appearance of the house’s extensive gardens, inside the furniture reflects that of the 1920s. The use of teacups and cigarettes are what the play centres around, creating a social atmosphere that reflects a typical British household.

We are first introduced to brother and sister Simon and Sorel Bliss played by Jack Humphreys and Kate Roche, as they are sat in the living room quarrelling, setting the tone of their temperamental relationship. They discuss whether their mother Judith played by Annie Harris, is having a guest to stay that weekend. They then learn that actually the whole family, including their father David played by Alan Marshall have invited a guest round, and as they suspect, disaster occurs.

Hay Fever at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, Review by Amy Stutz

Photography © Graeme Braidwood

Coming from a theatrical background, Judith is an extravagant character and Harris portrays this marvellously as she commands the attention with her compelling stage presence. She invites young man Sandy Tyrell played by Tom Leonard round for the weekend, their relationship is highly amusing. Leonard captures the charming nature of his character, whom is besotted by Judith, despite her being twice his age. He portrays the characters eagerness to please Judith superbly, as he learns more about her bizarre behaviour he becomes reluctant to stay and his reactions create striking humour.

Soon after Sandy’s arrival, Myra Arundel played by Ellie Bradbury arrives at the house. Bradbury’s character has a glamorous appearance yet frank nature, her straightforward and sarcastic tone works excellently against Humphreys passion towards her. Humphreys’ character is the central comedy character in the play, as he instantly switches between his audacious manner towards his sister to his charismatic attempts towards Myra.

Refusing to take any nonsense, Roche’s character Sorel is blunt and her demanding characterisation is highly convincing. She effortlessly slips into the impertinent character and she maintains her temperamental disposition supremely. Her guest Richard Greatham played by Chris Connolly is impatient to be acquainted with Sorel upon his arrival, however her abrasive tone towards him allows him to distance himself from her. He portrays the character complaisantly which works tremendously as his personality clashes with Sorel’s.

Gemma Ashton takes on the role of dim-witted and incredibly ditzy Jackie Coryton who arrives as David Bliss’ guest. Her take on the character is outstanding, she fidgets as her eyes dart around the room, displaying the nervousness of her character, this is particularly evident during a game they attempt to play in which involves acting. Her voice gets higher and her hands shake as she expresses her hatred of “doing anything in front of people”.

Hay Fever at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, review by Amy Stutz

The man of the house David displays his authority as the diplomat, and probably the most sane member of the family, he exudes charm as he saunters around the house flirting with the female guests. Marshall is persuasive as the dominant character and he shows glimpses of self obsession as he rambles on about his famous novels.

It is an exceptionally British production, alongside the posh accents of the family and their lavish guests, the housekeeper Clara played by Jan Cunningham is immensely funny with her strong Brummy accent and lack of attentiveness towards the guests.

It is a sterling revival that despite being over 90 years old, is still highly amusing and fantastically funny. In terms of amateur theatre, Hay Fever is a true gem, I was nothing but impressed by the remarkable cast.

Hay Fever is on at the Crescent Theatre until the the 7th of April and tickets can be found here.

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