We are delighted to welcome back High Tor Players with their new performance of – ‘HAY FEVER’
“Hay Fever” is a frothy comedy of bad manners and social embarrassment, and it’s a perennial favourite with audiences. It’s an ensemble piece set in the 1920s, full of the witticisms for which Noel Coward is known and loved, as well as period costumes, jazz music and general high spirits.
The entire play takes place over a weekend in a country house owned by the Blisses, a family of what, these days, we would probably call narcissists. Judith, David and their two adult children, Sorel and Simon–all attention-seeking, dramatic and entirely self-absorbed–have each invited a friend to stay for the weekend.
Judith, a retired star actress, has invited her latest admirer, the athletic amateur boxer Sandy. David has invited Jackie, a “flapper”, a fashionable young airhead he wants to study for the book he is writing. Simon has invited Myra, a seductive older woman who has designs on his father; and Sorel, who has suddenly decided to try to be more conventional, has invited Richard, a middle-aged diplomat who might, she thinks, be able to teach her how to behave more considerately in company. The guests are startled by the behaviour of their hosts, and also by the behaviour of the housekeeper, Judith’s old theatre dresser, Clara, who regards herself as a member of the family.
This is really a comedy about the theatre—specifically, about the old-fashioned melodramatic plays favoured by Judith, who used to star in them, and David, who still writes in the same style. By the time “Hay Fever” was written, modern playwrights like Coward were producing ironic, witty comedies and making fun of older theatrical traditions. The Blisses were based on the real-life family of the star actress Lauren Taylor and her husband, writer Hartley Manners, who were very kind hosts to Coward when he visited America. Unfortunately, they gave nightmarish parties at which guests were forced to play word-games, frequently broke down in tears, and were known to sneak off, retrieve their coats and leave while their hosts quarrelled vigorously amongst themselves. Coward used all these experiences to full comic effect in “Hay Fever”.
Lauren Taylor was devastated when she went to see “Hay Fever” during its London opening. She and her daughter (the original Sorel) recognised their family and, unsurprisingly, never spoke to Noel Coward again. Audiences, however, still love the uninhibited Bliss family and empathise with the unfortunate guests.
26–27 April, 7.30pm Ashover Village Hall
Tickets available from hightorplayers.com or 01629 733407
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