A scene from Hay Fever


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Hay Fever
by Noël Coward

18 - 21 February 1998
Studio Theatre, Northampton College, Booth Lane, Northampton

Production No. 297

More images from Hay Fever

Alison Dunmore, director

The first title Noel Coward thought of for this play was Oranges and Lemons, an apt name in view of the fact that the event inspiring it was a party game he joined at the home of the American actress, Laurette Taylor.

In his autobiography, Present Indicative, Coward wrote of his visit to Miss Taylor, "we had cold supper and played games, often rather acrimonious games, owing to Laurette's abrupt disapproval of any guest who turned out to be self-conscious, nervous or unable to act an adverb or an historical personage with proper abandon." He claimed to have written Hay Fever in three days.

It ran triumphantly for over a year when it first appeared in the West End in spite of some less than glowing reviews. James Agate wrote in The Sunday Times, "Mr. Coward is credited with the capacity to turn out these very highly polished pieces of writing in an incredibly short time: and if rumours in the illustrated weeklies are to be believed, he writes his plays in a flowered dressing gown and before breakfast. But what I want to know is, what kind of work does he intend to do after breakfast, when he is clothed and in his right mind?"

That was written in 1925. In 1964, after some twenty years of relative neglect, Hay Fever was chosen by Laurence Olivier as the first play by a living British dramatist to be presented at the National Theatre and Noel Coward, the 20s playboy, was awarded the Order of Merit. His knighthood was announced in the 1970 New Year's Honours List.

Jane Lanchbury as Judith and Emma Austin as Sorel

Cast & Crew

Judith Bliss Jane Lanchbury
David Bliss
John Lott
Simon Bliss
Vincent Howells
Sorel Bliss
Emma Austin
Myra Arundel
Vicky Kelly
Richard Greatham
Richard Allen
Jackie Coryton
Katie Greenwell
Sandy Tyrell Martin Borley
Pat Jones

Director Alison Dunmore
Ursula Wright
Stage Manager
Clare Brittain
Assistant Stage Managers
Suzanne Cameron, Carole Passingham
Setting Rob Kendall
Costumes Masque Costumes and Jane Roebuck
Hair/Make-up Design Susie Lawley-Wakelin
Lighting and Sound
Richard Walker, Phil Cave, Daniel Puttnam
Sound Recording John Hendy
Grace Ciappara, Mary Greaves
Front of House
Greta Hendy
Rob Kendall
Graphic Design
George Hammerschmidt


Northampton Chronicle & Echo, February 1998

When theatre lovers in Northampton were asked what was their favourite play, the number one choice was Hay Fever by Noel Coward.

Following the Masque Theatre’s survey, members are bowing to public demand and staging the play this month.

Group spokesman Rob Kendall said: “I think Hay Fever is so popular because it is full of fun and froth and is a real comedy of bad manners.”

The play is set in the roaring Twenties and is about the eccentric Bliss family and their ill-assorted Weekend guests.

Some members of the audience may find one of the stage sets, a white panelled staircase with diamond enamel, seems rather familiar. Mr Kendall said: “We wanted the set to have a Rennie Mackintosh feel, so I peered in the windows of 78 Derngate, much of which was designed by him, to look at the art deco style of the staircase and tried to replicate that.”

The set also features some of the famous architect’s frieze designs to complete the 1920s look.

Lead roles are taken by Jane Lanchbury, as retired actress Judith Bliss, and John Lott, as her novelist husband, David. Emma Austin, hot from playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Vince Howell play the couple’s children Sorel and Simon.

The company last performed Hay Fever in 1982 when it was directed by the Chron’s classical music critic, Maurice Dunmore. Now, 15 years later, his wife, Alison, is directing.

The play can be seen at Northampton College, Booth Lane South, from February 18 to 21, at 7.45pm. Tickets at £5 (£3 concessions) are available by calling Northampton 712577.