Friday, August 4, 2023



Glenn Brighenti, Andrea Close, Holly Ross in "Hay Fever"

Written By Noel Coward

Directed by Joel Horwood

ACT Hub Theatre, Kingston to August 12


Reviewed by Len Power 3 August 2023


Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” first appeared in London in 1925 and has been frequently revived ever since. This comedy of manners bordering on farce introduces us to the Bliss family, four unconventional, eccentric and self-centred people that seem to live in another world. When each family member invites a guest to stay for the weekend, the guests find to their horror that it is almost impossible to connect with these people and understand their unique reality.

Director, Joel Horwood, whose first directing job this is, has gathered a strong cast who have been costumed attractively by Fiona Leach and Tanya Taylor.

Andrea Close plays Judith Bliss, a famous retired stage actress who still lives life theatrically. Many famous actresses have made their mark playing this role and Close plays the dominant role with relish and is a thoroughly convincing and delightful nightmare from start to finish.

Holly Ross and Glenn Brighenti show a fine understanding of character with their playing of her languid children, Sorel and Simon Bliss, who play up to their mother at the drop of a hat.

With a gender change for this production, Judith’s partner has become Frances, still a novelist working on her latest book. Steph Roberts gives the role a bad-tempered strength that works very well. The other household member is Clara, once Judith’s stage dresser and now grouchy housekeeper. Alice Ferguson plays the role with gusto and is very funny.

Two of the guests include vampish Myra Arundel, played with fine comic timing and attitude by Tracy Noble and Joe Dinn as Richard Greatham is hilarious as a blustering diplomat who finds his skills are no match for this family.

The other two guests are Robbie Haltiner as gender-changed Jackie Corvton, now a nervous, wan young man and Meaghan Stewart, also in a gender-changed role, as Sandy Tyrell, now a butch, sporty young woman.

These particular gender changes confuse the relationships and the revelation that just about everyone turns out to be gay was never Noel Coward’s intention.  Gender changes have shown they can work effectively elsewhere but they should not alter the original focus of the play as they have here.

The character of Jackie Corryton would have been more colourful as a brainless young female flapper. Robbie Haltiner, through no fault of his own, has been left with a character that he could do little with.

Meaghan Stewart, usually a competent actress, looks ill at ease and flounders in her role as Sandy Tyrell, resorting to silly walks and mugging because she has nothing else to work with.

Aside from those gender changes this is a fine, entertaining production. Joel Horwood, who is well-known as a strong actor, shows great promise here as a director. There is good attention to detail, fast pacing and depth of character, for the most part.


This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 4 August 2023.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at