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Tam Williams directs Noel Coward's masterly comedy of manners





Hay Fever at The Mill at Sonning until May 13. Review by DEREK ANSELL

HAY Fever is one of Coward’s earliest plays, first produced in London in 1925.

Critics back then apparently dismissed it as ‘thin’, although it ran for almost a year. The play is actually quite thin, but in a good way.

Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis
Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis

It was written after the playwright visited the US and stayed with some eccentric people who got him playing weird charades after dinner and unwittingly gave him the inspiration for the Bliss family in Hay Fever.

Nick Waring played David Bliss, a cheap novel writer, and Issy Van Randwyk was his wife Judith. She was suitably scatterbrained throughout, flirting with a young visitor and reliving her past theatrical triumphs.

William Pennington gave a lively performance as their son Simon and Emily Panes gave an impressive interpretation of the scatty Soral.

Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis
Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis

Emily was also musical director and played piano. She would also have been required to supervise the wild family music scene where Bliss senior played percussion and his son Simon growled away on slide trombone.

Keeping it all in the character of young men of the times were Darrell Brockis and Daniel Fraser, nervously trying to fend off the seductive intentions of Judith and Soral.

Aretha Ayer as Myra provided a further distraction when flirting with or being chatted up by David. None of it meant anything anyway as the Bliss family were a self-contained unit, functioning in their own peculiar way all along.

Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis
Hay Fever, Mill at Sonning, picture Andreas Lambis

Last but certainly not least, there was Beth Lilly as Jackie, a nervous little creature, played impressively by the actor.

Joanna Brookes was Clara, the maid and she had impeccable timing as the cheeky, chirpy domestic. Her antics were often the funniest things happening.

The play was directed at a suitable steady pace by Tam Williams.

Noel Coward was known as ‘The Master’ to his close friends and one of the best creators of the well-made play.

This was one of his earliest pieces and a good indication of lasting quality and of what was to come.



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