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Genesian Theatre Company : Noel Cowards Hay Fever : This is lots of fun

Left to right – Roslyn Hicks, Zoe Wilson and Harry Charlesworth in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever at the Genesian Theatre

A lot of great comedy has stemmed from the dysfunctional, bizarre family genre. Shows that  instantly come to mind  are the Addams Family and Meet The  Fockers. It is  this rich genre that the brilliant British playwright Noel Coward, known for good reason as the Master, mines  with his evergreen 1925 comedy HAY FEVER .

The Bliss family, (yes, there is some irony in the name), comprises four members. Vain  father David(Christopher Gale) is a successful  novelist who spends most of his time bunkered down in his studio writing his next gaudy romantic novel which is nearing  completion. 

Mother Judith (Elizabeth MacGregor) was a much loved actress  who retired early  and has been sorely  missing it. The start of the play sees her in conversation with her  two grown up  children, Simon (Harry Charlesworth) and Sorel (Zoe Wilson) and telling them that  she is planning to return to the  stage soon in a well crafted, popular melodrama. The three of them improvise a scene.

Conversation then turns to the fast approaching weekend. The Bliss family want a quiet one, at least that is what they say. There is just a bit of a hiccup. It comes out that, unknowingly, all four of them have invited their own guest for the weekend. It’s  just a bit squeezy considering that they have only one spare room, curiously known as the Japanese room. 

The Bliss’s four guests arrive; Richard (Simon Pearce) a well regarded diplomat, Jackie (Laura Wallace), a flapper who is ditzy enough to think that David is a great writer, young Sandy (Yusuf Nayir) who is a big fan of Judiths, and the vampish Mrs Myra  Arundel (Karys Kennedy). There is a mutual lack of appreciation thing going on between Judith and Myra.

The play is perfectly set up for high comedy and satire which Coward delivers  with the  four guests merely being playthings for the Bliss family’s outrageous  behaviour.

All of the performances were good. There was good comic physicality in the performances with each actor giving their own little quirkiness and  affectations to their roles. Elizabeth MacGregor gave the performance of the night as drama queen Judith who in real life has never left the stage. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Zoe Wilson as Sorel and Harry Charlesworth  as Simon, two spoilt adult children, who treat everything  with precious little seriousness, and  Roslyn Hicks as Judith’s former dresser who was now the family’s laconic housemaid.

The show has been well directed by Jason Darlington, (with Ali Bendall as his able Assistant), who in his program note says that he has seen many productions of Coward’s plays, both professional and community, and has relished the opportunity to  put  his own stamp on one of the Master’s classic comedies.  The staging and timing were first rate.

Production values were good. The period set by Jason Darlington, Gregory George and Peter Curtis, was impressive  and finely detailed.  Susan Carveth’s  period costumes were plush and lovely to look at. Cian Byrne  lit the stage well. The director  looked after the soundscape with some twenties music. 

This show was  a  feather light, fun experience.  The Genesian Theatre Company’s production of HAY FEVER plays the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent Street, city until the  20th July 2024.

Featured image : The cast of Hay Fever : Back row Left to right Karys Kennedy, Roslyn Hicks, Yuzuf Nayir, Simon Pearce and Harry Charlesworth. Front row Left to right Elizabeth MacGregor, Christopher Gale, Zoe Wilson and Laura Wallace





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