Ichabod is itchy

July 18, 2006


Filed under: theatre — by ichabodisitchy @ 6:14 pm

We went to watch the Noel Coward play Hayfever (playing at the Haymarket Theatre, London) over the weekend. It is a side-achingly funny play, set in 1925, about the bad manners of a melodramatic and slightly bonkers family who all, independently, invite guests down to their country home for the weekend and then proceed to entertain, flirt with, ignore, embarass and humiliate them in one way or another. The guests become increasingly alarmed and distraught and eventually make their escape by creeping out of the house during a blazing family row over breakfast.

Judi Dench headlines the play as Judith Bliss (the mother of the ‘host’ family) and was superb in her role as the overly-dramatic ageing West End star who has been forced into early retirement. The whole thing was deliciously funny from beginning to end and simply wonderful to watch.


Noel Coward had the amazing ability to capture social situations in a timeless way so that, even though the play was written 80-odd years ago, you find yourself saying ‘I know someone just like that!’ There is one scene in particular that brought tears of laughter streaming down my face– a couple of the guests have been left alone to entertain themselves in the sitting room. They have never met before, nor appear to have much in common (one is a diplomat, the other a young flapper). There follows a series of excruciating exchanges of small talk, interspersed by long pauses of silence as they struggle to find an opening for conversation. Well- the number of times I’ve found myself in that situation! And they played it brilliantly.

If you’re in London, and have the chance to go, I highly recommend it.



  1. sounds great – we’ve got some theatre vouchers kicking around…

    Comment by James Long — July 19, 2006 @ 3:17 pm |Reply

  2. I love this play. I’ve seen it many times. Isn’t this the Coward that features the line “anyone for tennis?” much mocked by John Osborne and the kitchen sink crowd?

    I was amazed because both girls are away next week staying with friends/relations for part of the summer, and Malcolm has obtained two tickets for the Mike Leigh play at the NT for one evening. I’m really looking forward to it, reminds me of the days Pre Children when one could be spontaneous about this kind of thing.

    Comment by Maxine — July 21, 2006 @ 8:11 pm |Reply

  3. PS I have just remembered that there is a girl in this play called Sorrel, and I had a fantasy of if I ever had a daughter, calling her Sorrel. But when it actually happened, I was not allowed (nor was I allowed Scarlett, Rowena, et al….) “Pretentious” names were out. (For my part I vetoed Clare, Sophie and Sarah.)

    Comment by Maxine — July 21, 2006 @ 8:13 pm |Reply

  4. Why did Noel Coward name his play HAYFEVER?

    Comment by Nanette Hofer — January 13, 2007 @ 11:18 pm |Reply

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