Monday, 20 April 2009

Hay Fever - Chichester Festival Theatre

Hay Fever by Noel Coward
Director: Nikolai Foster

Reviewer: David Saunders

I arrived at the CFT hoping for a bright sparkling piece of Coward light entertainment. I was not disappointed. The ensemble work wonderfully together moving from gentle comedic interplay to wild physical farce. The actors make the piece fizz along with Coward’s trademark acerbic wit and crisply observed character writing.

The cast are stellar from old hands through to the younger members of the company. The actors are really firing allowing the warmth and wit of the words to take the plaudits. The performances are not showy but well pitched to fit within the confines of a text that wastes little time in dropping us directly into the foibles and problems of this most self obsessed family. All of the actors are working extremely hard throughout both in terms of the busy physicality required and the verbal jousting each of the family members and they’re guests.

Director Nikolai Foster allows the action to flow quickly from one situation to the next with little fluff giving the piece a streamlined and quick fire approach than has been seen in Coward productions of late. The sumptuous set by Robert Jones perfectly mirrors the dilapidated nature of the family as we glimpse broken belongings in amongst the grandeur of a gentile country house. The costumes designed by Fontini Dimou are opulent and perfectly formed to add a real layer of luxury to the proceedings. The lighting and sound designs work seamlessly within the production offering subtle changes in mood and temperature within the house as we move through this disastrous weekend with the family from hell.

Overall this piece has everything you would hope for in a Coward production, beautifully designed sets and costumes and sparking materials played with zeal by a group of actors who look to be really enjoying themselves. While this may not be the sort of right on political theatre that is in vogue at the moment this piece of Coward confection is the perfect antidote to the credit crunch.

Hay Fever runs at the CFT until Sat 2nd May
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