Hayfever, 3 Stars

Mill at Sonning
16 March – 13 May 2023

“Noël Coward’s effervescent comedy of bad manners – written in three days when he was 24 – is set in a country house in Berkshire.
Judith Bliss (Issy van Randwyck) is a famous West End actress, technically retired. Husband David (Nick Waring) churns out romantic novels. Their grown-up children – Simon and Sorel – resolutely refuse to grow up.
The pathologically self-absorbed Blisses invite a quartet of hapless guests for the weekend: a career diplomat, a predatory society girl, a conventional sporty chap and a sweet-natured flapper. The guests turn out to be cannon fodder in the family’s ongoing solipsistic fantasies. The sociopathic hosts are briefly in-credulous when their guests creep away after breakfast.
‘Hay Fever’ has something for everyone. The rude bohemians in the audience love watching themselves in action. More conventional theatre-goers relish the enactment of their worst social nightmares. It’s a delirious rollercoaster of a play, encased in wit, comic brio and emotional truth.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

A trip to the Mill at Sonning is always going to be something very special. From arriving through the bar which overlooks the working water wheel, to the wonderful meal, and then entering the theatre, it’s a lovely experience from arrival to departure.

Hay Fever was never Noel Coward’s greatest play. It is a character comedy for the four members of the Bliss family who invite four guests to stay the weekend. The shenanigans that occur once the guests have arrived are amusing but, perhaps what was considered shocking behaviour for a 1920’s audience, not so outrageous nowadays. It is quite delightful and thankfully this production has not been “re-imagined”, “gender-swapped”, made “immersive” or had any other atrocity crow-barred in.

We open with the two grown-up children, Sorel and Simon, passing the time, part-bickering and part singing and acting around the piano. Simon is barefoot with soft cotton linen painting clothes, which although unexpected for the grand style of the house and era, it sets the tone that perhaps he’s a little bohemian and unconventional. Think David and Alexis from Schitt’s Creek and you’ve got the idea. Then there are the parents, Judith and David. Judith is clearly established as a famous theatrical eccentric. The guests arrive and of course are the conventional characters who get roped into becoming victims to the lunatics that are the Bliss family.

The Set is full-on with period style and furniture. The costumes also quite sumptuous and flapper frilly. The lighting was a little bright for an indoor setting, especially going into a thunderstorm, with the evening look equally bright but indicated by the wall sconce fixtures also coming on.

The Sound effects quite not so realistic, very loud rain, and a squeaky step inconsistent in cueing, the car speeding away too quickly after the guests leave the house – they’d never manage to get into the car, start it, and drive away that quickly.

Stand out performance from William Pennington and Joanna Brookes keep the play nicely ticking along.


Issy van Randwyck’s stage credits include ‘Dazzling Divas’ – writer and performer (Offie Award Nomination – Minerva Theatre Chichester, Jermyn Street Theatre, Hurlingham Festival and upcoming at The Mill at Sonning from 19 July – 29 July, 2023); ‘The Boyfriend’ (Menier Chocolate Factory); ‘Rough Crossing’ (tour); ‘Anything That Flies’ (Jermyn Street Theatre); ‘The Go Between’ (Aldwych Theatre); ‘A Further Education’, ‘Raving and No Naughty Bits’ (Hampstead Theatre); ‘Closer Than Ever’ (Offie Award Nomination), ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ (Offie Award Nomination), ‘Dead Divas’ and ‘The Betrayal of Nora Blake’ (Jermyn Street Theatre); ‘The American Clock’ (Finborough Theatre); ‘Dirty Dancing’ (Aldwych Theatre); ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and ‘A Little Night Music’ (National Theatre); ‘Plaza Suite’ (Mill at Sonning); ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate’ – Olivier Award Nomination for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical (Regents Park Open Air Theatre); Fascinating Aida 1994-1999 – Olivier Award Nominations for Best Entertainment 1994 and 1999.

Nick Waring’s theatre credits include: ‘Ten Times Table’, ‘Don’t Dress For Dinner’ (The Mill at Sonning); ‘4 Love’, ‘Tonight at 8:30’; ‘Stone Cold Murder’; ‘The Heart of Things’; ‘Stone Cold Murder’; ‘Taking Steps’; ‘Room Service Included’. TV includes: ‘Father Brown’; ‘Call The Midwife’; ‘Ransom’; ‘EastEnders’; ‘Holby City’; ‘Victoria’; ‘The Detectorists’; ‘Genius Albert Einstein’; Guiltology’.

The cast also features Aretha Ayeh (as Myra Arunde), Beth Lilly (Jackie Coryton), Daniel Fraser (Sandy Tyrell), Darrell Brockis (Richard Greatham), Emily Panes (Sorel Bliss), Joanna Brookes (Clara), William Pennington (Simon Bliss).

Creative team:
Tam Williams Director
Michael Holt Set Designer
Natalie Titchener Costume Designer
Graham Weymouth Sound Designer
Matt Biss Lighting Designer
Kate Plantin CDG Casting Director


by Noël Coward
Directed by Tam Williams

The Mill at Sonning Theatre
Sonning Eye


16 March – 13 May
Evening Shows Wed – Sat
Sat Matinees Every Week
Sun Matinees from 26 March