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Family foibles make for a fun night out

Hay Fever, The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until June 23. This Noel Coward play, first performed 93 years ago, mixes farce and camp, witty repartee to provide a couple of hours full of laughs in a production which is a joy from beginning to end. The speedy dialogue and importance of timing mean it could have been tricky, but the Bear Pit Theatre Company production, in this small theatre at the back of a United Reformed Church, have got all that sussed. The casting and costumes are also excellent, producing a show where everyone also looks the part. The well-off Bliss family realise to their irritation that all of them – mum, dad and the two kids – have each invited someone to stay for the weekend; all are rather age-inappropriate friends of the opposite sex. The guests have hardly arrived before finding themselves victims of the family’s over-dramatic, self absorbed lives, where all emotions are supercharged, and also fast forgotten. Dad is a writer and mum an actress, and their son and daughter have inherited the habit of living fictitiously. The character of Judith Bliss is central to the play, and Lesley Wilcox is superb as the over-the-top actress, the object of desire by much-younger Sandy, and loving the attention, but then soon reeling in diplomat Richard – who has been invited by her daughter. Thomas Hodge is wonderful as the easily-led Sandy, looking as though he has stepped straight from the 1920s, and is permanently confused by it, and floppy-haired Josh Whiteman-Gardner has a fantastically expressive face as he flits between being scathing about his family, and swooning over houseguest Myra, who is wisely not getting too close. Most of the jokes are timeless and this is a production guaranteed to give a fun night at the theatre.

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