Hay Fever is a comedy of manners set in the English country house of the Bliss family. Their eccentric and outrageous behaviour often humiliates and insults their friends who are asked individually to stay. What is meant to be a relaxing country retreat turns into a living nightmare as inappropriate seductions and scandalous revelations cause their guests to flee while the Bliss family remain ‘blissfully’ unaware of their intolerable behaviour over the weekend.
At fist, the set creates a comfortable and domestic feeling with books and pictures, a grand piano and a grandfather clock with a grand staircase for dramatic entrances in the play. This reflects the family’s extravagance, especially through their frocks and dapper dinner jackets that fit perfectly with the opulence of the set but as the scene progresses, cracks appear in the family as each member competes for attention through games and insincere romantic courtship.
Judith Bliss (Felicity Kendal), the matriarch of the family, is no doubt the driving force of the play. Her melodramatic, outlandish reactions to the loss of her children and then her husband who declares his love for another woman is perfectly timed and controlled in a wonderfully, theatrical way. Alice Orr-Ewing and Simon Bliss’s Edward Franklin portrayal of her spoilt children is not only comical but also very convincing. This production truly captures the absurd spirit of these characters and leaves the audience breaking into stitches throughout play.