Bohemians behaving badly in this cheeky adaptation
Director Dominic Hill's take on Noel Coward's satire focuses on the insufferable Bliss family, manufacturing lunacy when they ensnare their guests in parlour games. With the cast disappearing in and out of a painted landscape backdrop by Tom Piper, and from doors at the side where they can be seen before making their grand entrances and exits Hill draws attention to the artificiality onstage. There is a real sense of stretching the limitations of the script's eccentricities.
Excellent work from Benny Baxter-Young as pompous writer father David and his ghastly offspring Sorel (Rosemary Boyle) and Simon (Charlie Archer) is more than matched by hilarious, endearing Myra McFadyen as put-upon maid Clara, all withering one-liners in her too-large slippers, and she gets her five touching and entirely unexpected minutes under the spotlight.
For all the comic antics, Hill works the script's more difficult themes: an initially awkward scene between interlopers, uptight Richard (Hywel Simons) and bonkers Jackie (Katie Barnett) is pushed to almost intolerable levels of discomfort, nearly playing out in real time which provides a satisfying naturalism.
However, it is Coward's women who dominate the action: the face-offs between washed-up luvvie Judith (Susan Wooldridge, having a ball in her OTT role) and vampish Myra (Pauline Knowles) are brilliant, symbolic of both the new-found freedom for women in the roaring twenties, and the desperation to cling to their youth. Their acerbic put-downs could sour cream. Despite being slightly overlong, and dragging in the second act as the characters become increasingly irritating, Hay Fever is a spry and fun romp with Hill's distinctive directorial flavour.
Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, until Sat 1 Apr; Citizens Theatre Glasgow, Wed 5–Sat 22 Apr.