A Lightweight Tale Done Right
Fifty years ago, would anyone have predicted that the plays of Noël Coward would still be performed in 2014? He was at that time at the nadir of his career, eclipsed by the such gritty realists and angry young men, such as Pinter, Wesker and Osborne.
Well, some of the gritty realists aren’t as evident today on our stages as they were then, whilst, as this week’s opening at the Stratford Festival, Coward remains as popular as ever.
It’s not hard, from this production of Hay Fever, to see why. Coward doesn’t seek to be profound, only to amuse.
This is frankly a rather lightweight tale of an eccentric and disorganised, each of whom, unknown to the others, has invited someone they rather fancy – or who rather fancies them – to stay for the weekend.
Once trapped within the confines of a conventional country weekend, the guests each find themselves subjected to romantic intrigue designed not to satisfy them but to titillate the melodramatic fancies of their hosts. It’s a charming piece, light-hearted, witty and ever-so-slightly daring, without ever bringing a blush to a maiden aunt’s cheek.
To deliver the charm of Coward isn’t easy. He needs slick and period-sensitive direction, and above all highly sophisticated and stylish acting.
This production certainly met the first requirement: both the set and the costumes were visually ravishing, the latter – with their many changes – wonderfully expressive of the ‘bright young thing’ look of the 1920s.
If you are a fan of Pinter or Wesker you may find it hard to really admire this play – but if you simply want an entertaining evening in the theatre, Stratford’s Avon Theatre is a good place to find it this summer.
Review by Jordan Allystair