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Hay Fever


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A: Noël Coward Pf: 1925, London Pb: 1925 G: Com. in 3 acts S: The Blisses' home on the Thames, 1920s C: 4m, 5fDavid Bliss, a writer of best-selling romantic novels, lives in an elegant country house in Cookham with his ex-actress wife Judith, his 19-year-old daughter Sorel, and his artist son David. Unknown to the others, each has invited a guest to the house for the weekend. The guests duly arrive to find themselves initially ignored then treated with scant attention. David is busy finishing his latest novel, Judith is preoccupied with thoughts of making a comeback in her great success Love's Whirlwind, and Clara the housekeeper grumbles about the extra work the arrival of the guests has occasioned. Sorel has invited Richard Greatham, a rather stiff older diplomat; David's guest is an empty-headed adoring flapper Jackie Coryton. Young Sandy Tyrell comes to worship Judith, and Mrs Myra Arundel, a predatory older woman, has designs on Simon. After dinner the family humiliate their guests with a witty word game and then begin to play at romantic entanglements, often quoting from Love's Whirlwind. In the process, Judith appears to be ending her marriage so that she can elope with Richard, while David apparently forms a liaison with Myra. Meanwhile, Sorel and Sandy begin kissing, and Simon declares that he will marry Jackie. The following morning, after a dreadful breakfast, the guests make their getaway, while the Blisses settle down to hear David's last chapter.

A: Noël Coward Pf: 1925, London Pb: 1925 G: Com. in 3 acts S: The Blisses' home on the Thames, 1920s C: 4m, 5f

Coward's first major comic success still entertains audiences today. Its delightfully eccentric family that gives their guests such a confusing and distressing time may live in an English country house, but the theme is as old as Roman comedy: self-seeking and rather silly people, attracted by the Blisses' fame and sexual attraction, get their just rewards when they find themselves hopelessly out of their depth.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).


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Noël Coward (1899—1973) playwright and composer


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