The Bliss family is not your average family. The mother, Judith, was in her heyday a well-known actress; now she is just fading. Her husband, David, a novelist, appears to be oblivious to his family. Their two children, Sorel and Simon, are spoiled and unwilling to leave the family's nest. Throw in some visitors one rainy weekend and all sorts of mayhem ensues.
This is the plot of the new play Hay Fever, written by Noel Coward in 1924, and now playing, appropriately, at the Noel Coward Theatre in Covent Garden.
The Bliss family have each invited one guest to their country house for the weekend. One of the guests is Sandy, a male friend of Judith's. Also invited is Myra, who happens to be Simon's much older girlfriend. Sorel invites Richard to come, an older man she likes. And Jackie comes, a guest of David's, who also happens to be his mistress.
Throughout the rest of the day and night, much conversation takes place between the guests and the eccentric family, but much, much more is happening. Judith makes her moves on her daughter’s guest, Richard, and at that moment, starts hallucinating about the two of them living happily ever after. She doesn't care that her daughter, Sorel, is in the next room making out (and perhaps more) with her guest, Sandy. David is also not behaving. He starts making his moves on Myra, who actually welcomes his advances (she has all but forgotten about Simon). And Simon is not doing too badly himself; he falls in love with the ditzy Jackie, and announces to everyone that they are engaged. Do these romances last? Or is it simply that the Bliss family doesn't appear to be your normal family? They perhaps live in their own world, blissfully happy and ignorant, and quite eccentric as well. This is the zany plot of Hay Fever.
Lindsey Duncan as the grande dame of the family is terrific. She is dramatic, flirty and wonderful as Judith. Olivia Colman plays Myra as a woman who loves to be romanced, no matter by whom. And Amy Morgan as the ditzy Jackie is great in every scene she is in. The women do steal every scene in Hayfever, a play that is funny, zany, and very good.