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Written when Coward was only twenty-four, and produced shortly after, in 1925, Hay Fever is a broad, manic farce which takes place in the country house of a self-absorbed, artistic family. The Blisses, each of whom is creative and spontaneous, ignore the stultifying conventions of society--Judith, an extravagant stage actress, who pursues her own whims whenever it pleases her; her husband David, an author, who enjoys his own spotlight and camp-followers; and their adult children, Simon and Sorel. When Sorel announces that she has invited a weekend guest and would like to be able to use "the Japanese room," she quickly discovers that each of the other family members has also invited a guest for "the Japanese room."

In the course of the weekend, all the guests--conventional people attracted by the exciting lives these non-conformists have created for themselves--find themselves at the mercy of their more confident and assertive hosts. Guests who arrive thinking themselves in love with one person find themselves unexpectedly engaged to marry someone else. No one listens to them, no one recognizes them as individuals, and no one cares about their dashed expectations. As the Bliss family controls the activity during the weekend, the farce borders on absurdity. Outrageous scenes and emotional confrontations, part of their "normal" lives, prove too much for their guests.

The fast-paced interaction one sees on stage constitutes the only "plot," and there are no background stories to add complexity. What you see is obvious--what Coward has intended you to see. Far less subtle than some of his later work and lacking the cynicism and clever repartee for which Coward later became known, the play nevertheless incorporates many of Coward's trademark themes--the sense of entitlement by artists (some of which, he hints, is because they really are superior), their flamboyant behavior, the casual attitudes toward marriage and sex, their egotism and insensitivity to "ordinary" people, along with their sense of fun as they pursue their own pleasure.

These themes are all set into sharp relief by the behavior and attitudes of the guests, who gain no audience sympathy for their predicaments because they are decidedly dull. Though some believe that this is one of Coward's best plays, others will prefer the clever repartee, wit, and irony of the later plays, which tend to have a more intimate focus and smaller cast of characters. Mary Whipple
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on 10 March 2011
Buyers beware! I pre-ordered this item and eagerly awaited its arrival. When it arrived it was indeed Hay Fever by Noel Coward BUT NOT the cast on the packaging of the CD! It was Judi Dench instead of Peggy Ashcroft as Judith Bliss and the rest of the cast are totally different too! Not Amazon's fault but the fault of the BBC. I drew this to Amazon's attention and still the product listing has not been changed so I decided to make my first review by warning any potential purchasers of this item. I have though given it a 5* rating as I would have bought it anyway with Judi Dench in the lead as I saw her in that role in london's West End a few years back. There ought to be some very red faces at the BBC and an apology too; I'm surprised the item is still listed and hasn't been withdrawn. Good production of the play though!
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on 26 March 2013
read a few reviews before purchasing. This one was as it said on the tin...Was the peggy Ashcroft version. Brilliant stuff!
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VINE VOICEon 21 April 2006
Thanks to a recent re-reading, Hay Fever is making its way to the top spot on my ever-growing list of favourite plays. It's simply marvellous! Not only does it entertain through the unique plot and characters, it thrills the audience linguistically. The characters speak in perfectly formed quips - wordy but neatly put together.

SOREL: I should like to be a fresh, open-air girl with a passion for games.

SIMON: Thank God you're not.

SOREL: It would be so soothing.

Exchanges like this are abounding in Hay Fever. Nothing is left unsaid, the sentences are trim and the dialogue fast moving. No character is ever stuck for something to say. Thoughts are expressed bluntly and succinctly. Dialogue is never this neat, tidy and satisfying in real life, but it doesn't matter! It's beautiful and hilarious to listen to.

The Bliss family are eccentrically British. They have each invited an unsuspecting guest to stay for the weekend in their country house. There is not enough room and not enough patience! Each simply wants an adoring visitor. When the chaotic eight get together, games are attempted and polite conversation is hard to maintain. The Blisses end up swapping guests and ultimately alienating themselves completely.

This is my favourite Coward play at the moment. It beautifully illustrates the playwright's interest in egotism and self absorption, cloaked in wit and frivolity.
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on 29 July 2014
I bought this because I was in a production of this play. A really good version, and each track is about 3 mins long - which made it good for line learning in the car.
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on 29 March 2014
It isn't always easy to transcribe a stage play as a reading but this was just what I needed for a simulated broadcast .
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on 7 December 2014
Entirely came up to expectations,and now in use as an acting script for the Play which is under rehearsal.
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on 14 January 2015
A play which fizzes throughout in a Wilde-ean way.
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on 30 March 2016
Great play light and frothy.Coward at his best
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on 13 November 2013
+++ The Bliss family have one thing in common, they are all self centered and self absorbed. This has always been their most delightful trait. Guests come and go and feel ignored. Judith Bliss, an aging actress, interacts with others as they hold a mirror to reflect her vanity. The household is what used to be called "madcap".+++

above is a quote from a review which gave this play 5 stars.
i agree with what they have said but, for me, that means it gets 1 star.

i found the Bliss family simply tedious and annoying. i gave up on the play slightly more than halfway through and was overjoyed that i could simply switch off the Bliss family, unlike their unfortunate guests.
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