Felicity Kendal and Simon Shepherd appear in Noël Coward’s hilarious comedy of bad manners, Hay Fever, when it visits Theatre Royal Brighton on Mon 22 – Sat 27 Sept 2014
The Bliss family – recently-retired Judith, the once glittering star of the London stage; David, an egocentric novelist; and Sorel and Simon, their two Bohemian adult children – are incapable of sharing the spotlight. Unconventional, risqué, and often downright rude, they are everything a respectable English family should not be. When each member of the family invites a guest to their rural retreat, the unassuming visitors are thrown into a living melodrama. Misjudged meetings, secret seductions and scandalous revelations proliferate during one outrageous weekend in Berkshire.
Hay Fever has been a favourite amongst theatregoers ever since it first dazzled London’s West End in 1925, when Marie Tempest starred in the premiere, directed by Noël Coward himself. In 1964, when Hay Fever was staged by the Royal National Theatre – then with Laurence Olivier at the helm and located at London’s Old Vic – it was directed by Noël Coward again, becoming the first play by a living dramatist to be staged at the National.
Much loved for her illustrious television and stage career, Felicity Kendal stars as Judith Bliss. One of the UK’s most popular actresses, she has starred in many long-running television series including The Good Life, Solo, The Mistress (which was filmed in Bath), Rosemary and Thyme and Strictly Come Dancing 2010. Her extensive theatre credits include Chin-Chin, Relatively Speaking, Amadeus, Othello, On the Razzle, Arcadia and Humble Boy, all at the National Theatre. In the West End, her numerous credits include The Last Cigarette; Clouds, for which she won the Variety Club Best Actress of the Year Award; and Much Ado About Nothing and Ivanov with Alan Bates, winning the Evening Standard Best Actress Award.
Simon Shepherd stars as David Bliss. His many stage credits include the West End productions of The Duck House, Posh, The Secret Rapture, The Browning Version, A Tale of Two Cities and Art. Between 1993 and 2002, he played the role of Dr Will Preston in more than 70 episodes of Peak Practice. His film and television credits also include Death in Paradise, Rogue Trader, Wuthering Heights, Chancer, Heartbeat, Poirot, Gimme Gimme Gimme, and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Born in Bristol, Simon trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and was a member of the National Youth Theatre.
Sara Stewart plays the role of Myra Arundel. Her recent stage work also includes Enron, Heartbreak House at Chichester Festival Theatre; The Snow Queen at the Rose Theatre Kingston; Six Degrees of Separation at London’s Old Vic; Present Laughter at the National Theatre; and Proof at the Donmar.
Her many film and television credits include Mr Selfridge, Quirke, Fresh Meat, EastEnders, Batman Begins, Mrs Brown, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A Cock and Bull Story, and Drop the Dead Donkey.
The role of Simon Bliss is played by Edward Franklin, whose stage credits include Twelve Angry Men in the West End, The Merchant of Venice at the Unicorn Theatre, and Punk Rock on tour. His television work includes Doctors, Being Human and Married Single Other. Alice Orr-Ewing appears as Sorel Bliss. Her film and television credits include Pramface, Poirot, Blandings and Atonement.
The cast is completed by Michael Simkins as Richard Greatham. His recent credits include Oh What A Lovely War at Stratford East, the UK tour of Yes, Prime Minister, EastEnders, and The Iron Lady.
This production reunites the considerable comic talents of Felicity Kendal and director Lindsay Posner after their West End triumph in Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking last year. One of the UK’s greatest directors of comedy, Lindsay Posner directs Coward for the first time with HAY FEVER. He is fresh from a string of plaudits for his productions of Noises Off at London’s Old Vic, and Abigail’s Party and Relatively Speaking in the West End. He was Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre from 1987 to 1992, where his production of Death and the Maiden won two Olivier Awards. He has directed many times for the RSC. His numerous West End productions include Butley starring Dominic West; An Ideal Husband starring Samantha Bond and Rachel Stirling; A View from the Bridge starring Ken Stott – nominated for four Olivier Awards, including Best Revival and Best Director. Recently, he directed Uncle Vanya with Ken Stott, Anna Friel and Samuel West in the West End; and Henry Goodman in The Winslow Boy at London’s Old Vic. In September, he directs Lindsay Lohan as she makes her West End debut of Speed the Plow.
Playwright, composer, actor, author, director, producer and master of wit, Noël Coward (1899 – 1973) remains one of our most distinguished and celebrated icons. Coward had written over fifteen plays by the time he was in his mid-thirties and, despite his comparative youth, the first of many Coward biographies had already been published. One of the UK’s most prolific and popular writers, his plays include Fallen Angels, Private Lives, Design for Living, Blithe Spirit, Present Laughter, and Relative Values. With the onset of World War II he redefined the spirit of the country in films such as This Happy Breed, In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter. Noël Coward was knighted in 1970.
Hay Fever runs at Theatre Royal Brighton on Mon 22 – Sat 27 Sept