By Vanessa Di Feo
This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the final production of the 2014-2015 Thorneloe Theatre season: Noel Coward’s Hay Fever.
Dr. Ian Maclennan directed this popular British play that takes place in the 1920s, which featured various students in the Thorneloe Theatre Department, as well as Professor Patricia Tedford (the coordinator of the Bachelor of Fine Arts) and local actor Ron Tough.
The play was performed in the Ernie Checkeris Theatre at Thorneloe University.
While the production was set to premiere in early March (and run for two weekends), its schedule was shifted as one of the cast members was injured opening week. Thus, the show ran for less than one week, from March 11-14.
The situation was not ideal; however, thanks to its superb direction and some excellent actors, the show was a success.
A British comedy of manners, Hay Fever takes place in the English countryside in the 1920s. The action revolves around the eccentric and highly dramatic Bliss family, which comprises Judith and David Bliss, as well as their children, Simon and Sorel. Judith is a retired stage actress who longs (and makes plans) to return to her craft, while David is a prolific novelist. The play takes place over a weekend, when each member of the Bliss family invites a special guest without knowing the others’ plans. Upon witnessing the family’s peculiar practices, the guests – ranging from a wealthy diplomat to a boxer – flee, trying to avoid further shenanigans.
Although the plot of this comedy is not as action-packed as other productions that have been staged at Thorneloe, this production of Hay Fever was certainly one of the most entertaining shows seen at the theatre in the past several years.
As with all Thorneloe Theatre shows, this production was a collaboration between Thorneloe University and Cambrian College’s Theatre Production Program. While Dr. Maclennan’s direction of the show was superb, Ken Salah’s direction of the technical aspects of the show was also excellent.
The lighting and sound throughout the production ran smoothly and created a very realistic atmosphere, allowing the audience to better suspend their disbelief.
Furthermore, the set of the play was striking. Essentially, it took place in the Bliss family home; thus, the set comprised a living room, various doors, a staircase, and an upper level, all painted to look like hardwood. It was impressive and realistic of homes in the English countryside during the time period. This was only enhanced by the prop pieces (ranging from a wooden barometer to a well-decorated cigarette box), which, from an audience member’s point of view, looked highly realistic.
Perhaps the most visually striking component of Hay Fever were the costumes, which were widely appropriate for the time period and flattered the actors’ physiques, dressed in clothing supplied by Stage and Street.
In terms of acting, Hay Fever was also very strong, on the whole. Perhaps the strongest performances were those of Marcus Dias, who portrayed the diplomat Sir Richard Greatham, and Professor Patricia Tedford, who played Judith Bliss. Both actors completely mastered the British accent (a performance challenge unto itself), proved to be completely in character throughout the show, and displayed excellent comedic timing.
Essentially, Thorneloe University’s production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever was extremely entertaining, ending Thorneloe’s 2014-2015 theatre season with a bang.