Hay Fever * * *
at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Review by Alison Jones
Ignorance truly is Bliss in Noel Coward's classic comedy of bad manners.
The Bliss family seem to be totally oblivious of the effect their extravagantly emotional behaviour and self-indulgent histrionics seem to be having on their guests who are unfortunate enough to have been invited down for the weekend.
The family continue to play out their domestic dramas, dragging their visitors in as reluctant bit-part players, until, faced with the threat of being romantically united forever with one or all of the Blisses, they finally flee for the sake of their collective sanity.
Central to all of these shenanigans is Judith Bliss (Stephanie Beacham), the retired actress, who is reduced to getting her actorly kicks by treating her home as if it were the stage, an illusion her children Sorel and Simon (Madeline Hutchins and Williams Ellis) and self-absorbed writer husband David (Christopher Timothy) are only too willing to indulge her in.
It is a peach of a part for any actress and Beacham grasps it with both beautifully manicured hands, glamming it up in trailing chiffons and satins. She is a formidable force, even if the delivery occasionally seems oddly reminiscent of both Julie Walters and Fenella Fielding.
With such a magnetic centre the supporting cast could be left trailing in her wake.
However, Sarah Berger gives Judith as good as she gets as her acerbic contemporary Myra Arundel, and Andrew Hall is pompous yet strangely dashing as a diplomat with his eye on Sorel.
Emily Pollet has the expressions of a silent comedienne as an out-of-her-depth flapper while Pamela Buchner trills like Hilda Ogden cleaning the The Rovers Return as the doughty dresser-turned-housekeeper, Clara.n Running time: Two hours, until Saturday. Also at Malvern Festival Theatre from May 28 to June 2.