Not an easy watch: the harrowing Purge @Arcolatheatre
Not quite sure whether I got A Place At The Table (with a note from the director)

Hay Fever and the comic moment even Coward couldn't write

Hayfever_2151671bIt sounds like a criticism, and it isn't, but the funniest moment in Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre on Tuesday evening the result of a lady sitting who happened to be sitting on the front row.

On stage Jeremy Northam's  Richard Greatham is being seduced by Lindsay Duncan's Judith Bliss. They get closer and closer and then Greatham, succumbing to her attentions, suddenly kisses Judith on the neck. Cue a surprised and  loud 'oh' from said lady audience member. 

I think a hundred pairs of eyes, mine included, snapped towards her direction simultaneously bursting into laughter and we weren't the only ones. On stage Northam was fighting very hard to stifle his own giggles, fighting very hard, while Duncan stoically delivered her lines but even there the concentration was perceptible.

Olivia%20Colman%20(Myra%20Arundel)%20and%20Freddie%20Fox%20(Simon%20Bliss)%20in%20Hay%20Fever%20at%20the%20Noel%20Coward%20TheatreEventually the laughter died down and the actors found their footing again but it was one of those priceless moments you are only ever going to get with a live performance and it made the evening, which again sounds slightly negative about the play but isn't. I really enjoyed Hay Fever.

It's not a thought-provoking play (after Purge the night before I think I'd had my fill of those) it's just silly and good fun. It's about the posh, eccentric Bliss family, Judith is the mother, Simon and Sorel the son and daughter (Freddie Fox and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and David the father (Kevin R McNally). They are all selfish and insensitive and have independently each invited a guest to stay for the weekend. 

They bicker, fight, are extremely melodramatic and contrary, and have little regard for their guests comfort and entertainment. You should hate them but there is just enough of a dusting of charm (and jealousy) to make it work.

The performances are superb all around. Fox is shaping up to be the go-to actor for charming, ultra-posh characters (wonder whether he'll be bemoaning the typecasting in a few years, Benedict Cumberbatch style?). Waller-Bridge is also shaping up as an actress to watch out for.

And then there is of course the wonderful, wonderful Olivia Colman who plays Simon's guest Myra. Such a treat not only to see her on stage but also in a glamourous role. There has been a little bit of a debate on Twitter about whether she is mis-cast or not. She perhaps is a little on the older side for the character for some people's taste but for me I didn't doubt for one moment that she would turn Simon's head.

It's gone down well with the critics with mainly four and five star reviews. Only What's on Stage's Michael Coveney didn't seem to like it but does anyone really care what he thinks?

I'm going to give it four stars.


An easy peasy lemon squeezy one. Lindsay Duncan was Mr W's defence barrister in Criminal Justice but she has also worked with him more recently, she's in the BBC's Richard II which is due to be aired in the summer.