Arts Review: Hay Fever

Dir, Noël Coward, Citizens Theatre, 5th-22nd April

The best word I can find to describe Hay Fever, directed by Noël Coward, is ‘good’. It contains all of the necessary parts to make for an incredibly production, it ticks all of the necessary boxes, but put together it lacks something essential to pull it all together. Thus some scenes are brilliant and have the theatre echoeing with laughter, whilst other scenes seem to fall flat.

However, this is by no means the fault of the actors. Indeed, most of them are phenomenal. I especially enjoy Susan Wooldridge as the mother Judith, wonderfully portraying an eccentric and manipulative drama queen recently retired from the stage. Another personal favourite is Katie Barnett in the role of Jackie, managing to maintain a perfect expression of wide-eyed terror throughout the whole performance.

Whilst fantastic acting makes some scenes poignant and memorable, the play in general drags on. Thus the hilarity of particularly the first scenes after the intermission seems to go under. I find this a real shame, as some such scenes truly hold the beauty and enjoyment of farce, combining insightful comment on society with humour.

Focusing on the best scenes of Hay Fever, one can see how much potential there is. One of my favourite moments involves the apparently brusque, working-class housekeeper Clara played by Mayra McFadyen (who manages to bring laughter to the audience each time she appeares) being revealed as a wonderful singer. The astonished laughter this is received with shows how it touches on a profound theme underlying much of the play: how masks, conventions and expectations based on them can hide the true nature of the people we are surrounded by.

The play is certainly enjoyable and marked at times with scenes of depth and humour. Unfortunately, it is missing that something extra keeping me at the edge of my seat clutching tissues to wipe away the tears of laughter. Whilst I would not be quite as harsh as the audience member next to me who describes it as ‘OK’, I will agree that I had hoped for more.

[Kirsty Campbell]

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