For the first time since its renaming and refurbishment, one of Noël Coward’s most well known plays will be performed at the Noël Coward Theatre. Howard Davies is to direct Lindsay Duncan in Coward’s Hay Fever, reuniting the director and actor who together received seven major international theatre awards for their 2001 collaboration on Coward’s Private Lives. Duncan is joined by Jeremy Northam, Kevin McNally and Olivia Colman in Coward’s sublime comedy of bad manners.
Running at the Noël Coward Theatre from 10 February – 2 June 2012, Hay Fever has designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Mike Walker. Press preview performances are Thursday 23 February at 7pm, Friday 24 February and Saturday 25 February at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, with reviews embargoed until Monday 27 February 2012. Hay Fever is produced in the West End by Richard Willis, Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions. Further casting will be announced shortly.
Judith Bliss, once glittering star of the London stage, now in early retirement, is still enjoying life with more than a little high drama and the occasional big scene. To spice her weekend up, Judith invites a young suitor to join her in the country. However, her novelist husband, David, and her two eccentric children, Simon and Sorel, have had the same idea for themselves and any hope for private flirtation disappears as the family’s guests begin to arrive. Misjudged meetings, secret seductions and scandalous revelations all run riot at the most outrageous of all house parties.
In 1920 Noël Coward made his stage debut at what was then known as the New Theatre in his own first play, I'll Leave It To You. In 1973 the theatre was renamed the Albery and subsequently, in 2001, Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman played Amanda and Elyot in Coward's Private Lives to great critical acclaim. In June 2006 the theatre was renamed once again as the Noël Coward Theatre when the building underwent major refurbishment including the naming of the two principal dressing rooms as Noël and Gertie, the latter being Coward’s favourite leading lady, Gertrude Lawrence.
Cameron Mackintosh said: “I’m delighted to be able to have our first Coward play at the theatre since it was renamed after The Master. Truly one of Noël’s masterpieces, Hay Fever promises to be as great an evening at this theatre as Howard Davies’ Private Lives a few years ago, also starring the delicious Lindsay Duncan. I am also delighted to welcome to the salon of the Prince of Wales Theatre, Noël’s beloved grand piano on which he composed so many of his wonderful songs. His talent to amuse lives on forever.”
Playwright, composer, director and actor Noël Coward wrote Hay Fever in 1924 and it was first produced a year later at the Ambassadors Theatre. Coward wrote over 50 plays during his career including Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter, Blithe Spirit and Hay Fever. His many compositions include Mad Dogs and Englishmen, A Room with a View and Mrs Worthington, and his film credits include Brief Encounter, The Vortex and The Italian Job. Coward was knighted in 1970.
Double Olivier award-winner Lindsay Duncan (Judith Bliss) has worked extensively for the National Theatre where her credits include Plenty, The Homecoming and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and for the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In the West End she has been seen in The Cryptogram, That Face and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. For the Royal Court her credits include the original production of Top Girls as well as Ashes to Ashes and Mouth to Mouth. For the Almeida Theatre her credits include Celebration and The Room. On television she has recently appeared as Alex Cairns in Black Mirror – The National Anthem and The Duchess of York in Rupert Goold’s Richard II. Her other television credits also include White Heat, Dr Who, the title role in Margaret, as well as Lost in Austen, Longford, Rome, Shooting the Past and Perfect Strangers, The Rector’s Wife, A Year in Provence, GBH and Traffik. Her film credits include Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Starter For Ten, Mansfield Park, An Ideal Husband and Prick Up Your Ears.
Olivier award-wining Jeremy Northam (Richard Greatham) was most recently on stage at the Donmar Warehouse in Old Times. His other theatre credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Country Wife for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Certain Young Men for the Almeida Theatre and The Voysey Inheritance at the National Theatre. He has most recently been seen on television in Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 and as Thomas Moore in The Tudors. His other television credits include White Heat and Journey’s End. Northam’s film credits include Creation, Dean Spanley, A Cock and Bull Story, Gosford Park (in which he played Ivor Novello), The Winslow Boy, An Ideal Husband, Happy Texas, Possession, Emma, The Net and Carrington.
Kevin McNally’s (David Bliss) most recent stage credits were as Claudius in Hamlet and Lebedev in Ivanov, both for the Donmar Warehouse at Wyndham’s Theatre. Previously his extensive theatre credits include Boeing Boeing, The Lady in the Van, Naked, Dead Funny and The Iceman Cometh. On television he can soon be seen in ITV1’s Downton Abbey. His other television credits include New Tricks, Life On Mars, Margaret, Bloodlines, Dunkirk, Spooks, Shackleton, Rab C Nesbitt, Enigma and Diana. McNally’s many film credits include the role of Joshamee Gibbs, Captain Jack Sparrow’s first mate in The Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Raven (to be released next Spring), Valkyrie, De-Lovely, The Phantom of the Opera, Johnny English, Sliding Doors, Irish Jam and Entrapment.
Olivia Colman’s (Myra Arundel) theatre credits include England People Very Nice for the National Theatre, The Three Some for the Lyric Hammersmith and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Lyric Theatre. Her upcoming film credits include The Iron Lady directed by Phylidda Lloyd and Hyde Park on Hudson. Her other film credits include Tyrannosaur, Dog Altogether, Grow Your Own, I Could Never Be Your Woman and Hot Fuzz. On television she is best known for playing Sophie Chapman in the Peep Show series and Harriet Schulenburg in the Green Wing series. Her other television credits include The Baader Meinhof Gang series, Exile, Doctor Who, Beautiful People, Consuming Passion, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Hancock and Joan, Love Soup, Much Ado About Nothing, Ny-Lon and The Office.
Multi award-winning Howard Davies is an Associate Director of the National Theatre where his many productions include The Cherry Orchard, The White Guard, Burnt by the Sun, The Taking Cure, Flight, Present Laughter and Mourning Becomes Electra. For the Almeida Theatre, where he was also Associate Director, his productions include Period of Adjustment, The Play About the Baby, The Iceman Cometh and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At the Royal Shakespeare Company he produced 26 new plays in 4 years at the Warehouse Theatre which he established and ran. His other RSC credits include The General from America, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Jail Diary of Albie Sachs. In the West End Davies’ directing credits include All My Sons, The Breath of Life and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. His many Broadway transfers include A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Iceman Cometh, My Fair Lady, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.