One of Noël Coward’s finest plays can be seen on stage in Welwyn Garden City from tonight (Friday).

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The cast of Hay Fever

Sorel Bliss -– Alessia Procaccini

Simon Bliss – Dominic Arnold

Clara – Maureen Davies

Judith Bliss – Siobhán Hill Elam

David Bliss – John Walton

Richard Greatham – Will Smith

Sandy Tyrell – Harry Harding

Myra Arundel – Sarah Doyle-Smith

Jackie Coryton – Josie Matthews

The Barn Theatre kicks off its 2014 programme with Hay Fever, regarded as one of Coward’s best.

A sparkling, frothy evening of fun, Coward’s classic comedy of English eccentricity sees the four self-centred members of the Bliss family each inviting a guest for the weekend without telling the others.

Cue total havoc involving squabbles, instant romances, excruciating parlour games and mistaken seduction.

According to Coward, Hay Fever is “a difficult play to perform with no plot at all and remarkably little action”.

Despite that, it remains one of his most popular plays.

Coward’s plays epitomize the sophisticated wit of the era between the two world wars, and Hay Fever is a comedy of manners about a family whose theatrical excesses torment a group of unsuspecting house guests.

Inspired by a weekend he spent at the house of the actor Laurette Taylor, Coward wrote the play in just three days and it has continued to delight audiences ever since it first appeared on the London stage in 1925.

Judith, a recently retired stage actress, David, a self-absorbed novelist, and their two equally unconventional children live in a world quite removed from reality.

Upon entering this world, the unfortunate weekend guests – a proper diplomat, a shy flapper, an athletic boxer, and a fashionable sophisticate – are caught up in bewildering situations as the family entertain themselves at the expense of their guests.

The resulting comedic chaos ends only when the tortured visitors tip-toe out the door.

In her fifth directing role for the Barn, Janet While has put together a talented ensemble cast.

The performers have what it takes to deliver the wit and charm of this piece.

Speaking of the process of bringing it to the stage, Janet said: ‘The main challenge is to get the style right – the manners, the period and the style – that’s what it’s all about really and that’s what makes it such a joy to watch.”

Wittily written, slightly cynical, and undeniably entertaining, this play is the perfect antidote to the January blues.

* Hay Fever can be seen at the theatre in Handside Lane from tonight (Friday) until Saturday, January 25, with performances nightly at 8pm and an additional matinee at 2.30pm on the final Saturday of its run.

Tickets cost £11 from the Barn Theatre box office on 01707 324300 or online at www.barntheatre.co.uk

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