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Published on August 10th, 2011 | by Sinead Keogh

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Theatre: Hay Fever @ The Gate

Having managed to get this far in life without seeing a Noel Coward play on the stage, we put things to rights at a preview showing of Hay Fever at The Gate two weeks ago. It was brilliant and you should go to see it. It was my first time in The Gate and I was entirely taken with the counter selling tea and KitKats at the interval (there’s also a bar if you’re so inclined…)

Hay Fever is an entirely undated comedy about an eccentric family, the Blisses (parents Judith and David and grown up children Sorrel and Simon) who each, unbeknownst to the others, has invited a guest to their country pile for the weekend. The laughs ensue as each one makes a hash of entertaining – from Sorrel who’s trying to shrug off years of family convention to be a proper hostess to her guest Mr Greatham, to her mother, Judith, a retired actress, who can’t stop being theatrical for long enough to put her guest, Sandy, at his ease.

As a family, they’re over the top, loud and make wildly big movements – but the full knowledge that even they don’t believe or buy into their throwaway thoughts and actions makes them likable all the same. Watching them play with the minds of their guests and each other purely for the entertainment of it, all infused with the sharpest of dialogue and Coward-scripted wit, was just about the best Friday night I’ve had in a long time.

Presented as if they’re the most socially unbridled family, with no understanding of why they should be concerned with anything beyond their own wants, there’s no missing out on the less-than-subtle implication that ignorance is bliss, but the mischief playing on each of their faces lets the audience in on just where the balance of ignorance and intent lies for David, Judith, Sorrel and Simon.

It’s funny – so genuinely really funny – not just in words but in the perfectly curated facial expressions and movements of each of the actors. If anything the only gripe we could have is with the poster, from which we inferred a lonely woman at a window, possibly dying of hay fever, rather than a delightfully eccentric actress mother starring in a comedy. Indeed, special mention, in particular, to Ingrid Cragie who plays Judith Bliss, and steals the stage so many times that there’s barely a board left to tread by the final bow. Beth Cooke is a fantastic spoilt and clever Sorrel, with Jade Yourell’s Myra and Stephen Brennan’s David Bliss equally impressing.

A stellar line-up and amazing play with too many highlights to choose from – including watching Mark O’Halloran portray the discomfort of the nervous and proper Mr Greatham until we were doubled up – it’s running until September 24th and if like me you’ve never been to the Gate or seen a Noel Coward play before, you couldn’t pick a better time to make amends on both counts.

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About the Author

Sinéad edits books for her real job. She has never met a punctuation mark she didn't like. She likes cheese (both kinds). She is a lip-biter and a knuckle cracker. She has made a list of 50 things to do before she dies - you're not on it. In particular, she looks after movies, comedy gigs and the Event of the Week series for Culch. You can email her if you want, she loves attention. sinead@culch.ie



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