If ever a family were less deserving of the name Bliss, then it’s the argumentative, self-serving, egotistical clan at the centre of Noel Coward’s comedy Hay Fever.
They snipe at each other, are rude to guests and are the last people you would wish to spend a precious weekend with.
Hathersage Players bring the odious relatives to life this week with spiffing characterisations in a beautifully dressed production.
Jean Hopkinson leads the cast in the marathon role of matriarch Judith, with a penchant for handsome, young men and a propensity for making a drama out of a crisis. The occasional prompting which Joan needed at the show last night (Thursday, May 21) added to the impression that her retired actress character hadn’t stepped foot on stage for many a year.
Lovely performances from the younger members of the cast see Jenny Armstrong and Tom Longden cast as the spoilt siblings, Sorel and Simon Bliss. Sorel is very much the pampered princess who likes to be the centre of attention, Simon is the least unpleasant member of the family but even he gets his digs in at parents and pals.
Richard Morello plays their dad David whose popularity diminishes with the progression of the play as the successful novelist misreads the signals from a glamorous guest and puts his already shaky marriage on the brink of collapse.
A motley assortment of guests turn up at the Bliss’s residence for the weekend.
Sally Craike brings glamour and polished acting to the role of cougar girlfriend who rebuffs the outrageous advances of her boyfriend’s dad.
Richard Greatham is the epitome of suave in a beautifully understated portrayal of dashing diplomat who shows every sign of being a ladies’ man.
Robert Hall plays the likeable, young chap with a permanent smile who sets the mistress of the house’s heart a-flutter.
And Emily Upton puts in a a lovely performance as the shy, tearful friend of the dad whose relationship with him remains a mystery.
Pat McLoughlin is kept busy serving up copious amounts of tea in her role as long-suffering housemaid whose demeanour is influenced by her rude employers.
Glamorous 20s-style dresses and dinner suits, one of the most eye-catching sets to have graced Hathersage Memorial Hall, era-appropriate music and readings from Noel Coward feature in this production directed by Jane Litherland, assisted by Louise Whiteley.
As a study in characterisation and a window on the world of social misfits, Hay Fever is a superb piece; as a story it provokes gentle amusement rather than shrill excitement.
Catch the remaining performances tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm.