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Hay Fever review at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh – ‘light as froth’

Hay Fever at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic Hay Fever at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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Dominic Hill’s production of Hay Fever for the Lyceum (also touring to the Glasgow Citizens) has plenty of laughs but occasionally stutters in its presentation.

Light as froth, but shot-through with an altogether more powerful brew, Noel Coward’s play features the hopelessly self-absorbed Bliss family, who each invite a guest down to their country house for the weekend.

The result is comic splendour – in part: on-stage attention to detail cannot hide an insubstantial script. Still, Hill directs with the necessary pace to give the comedy its teeth and, in the mirror of this 1920s bohemian family at play, he also finds a reflection of contemporary British attitudes to themselves and their neighbours.

Susan Wooldridge is a deliciously OTT matriarch, faded actress Judith Bliss, although her voice slips into neutral too often. Benny Baxter-Young as husband David and Charlie Archer as petulant son Simon are properly exasperating, while Rosemary Boyle finds a hint of self-awareness as sister, Sorel.

Of the visitors, Hywel Simons is most nuanced as diplomat Richard Greatham. His attempts to draw out the debilitatingly nervous Jackie Coryton (brilliant Katie Barnett) is a comic highlight. Pauline Knowles provides a more knowing hint at a different play altogether as the notorious Myra Arundel, while Nathan Ives-Moiba is a fish out of water as Judith’s paramour, Sandy, although as self-absorbed as any Bliss.

Myra McFadyen as the servant, Clara, really gives the production its crisp comic edge, with Hill skilfully using her to underline the Bliss’ ignorance and the folly, for the wise, of being near them.

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A crisp production and interesting resonances can't hide Coward's lack of substance