Jeremy Northam to appear in ‘Hay Fever’, February 2012

8 Oct

I hesitate to apply the overused ‘bus’ analogy, but really, it is the perfect choice in this instance. After a long break, we found out recently that Jeremy has been filming a new drama for BBC2 (White Heat), to be shown in 2012. And today, I have confirmation that Jeremy will be treading the boards for the first time since 2004 in a Howard Davies production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever.

Kevin McNally

Howard Davies, like Jeremy, has links to the Bristol Old Vic (Mr Davies worked with them in the 1970’s and Jeremy trained there) and there’s a further link: he has worked extensively with the National Theatre, directing Jeremy in The Shaughraun in 1988.

At the moment, Kevin McNally is definitely confirmed as being involved, and unconfirmed reports link Lindsay Duncan and Olivia Colman to the production. Lindsay Duncan appeared in Davies’ successful production of another Coward play, Private Lives (co-starring Alan Rickman) in 2002.

Noel Coward

We think that Jeremy will be playing David Bliss. For those unfamiliar with the play, Hay Fever is a sparkling comedy, written in 1924 and first performed in 1925 at the Ambassadors and Criterion theatres. David Bliss is a retired novelist, his wife is a retired actress, and they have two children. The play revolves around a weekend during which the family, and their house guests, encounter a range of  arguments, misunderstandings and surprises with hilarious results and typical Cowardian wit. Based on Coward’s experiences of visiting the American actress, Laurette Taylor at her home (Laurette, apparently, didn’t confine her love of drama to the stage), Coward later said, in Present Indicative:

On Sunday evenings… we had cold supper and played games, often rather acrimonious games, owing to Laurette’s abrupt disapproval of any guest (whether invited by Hartley, Dwight, Marguerite, or herself) who turned out to be self-conscious, or unable to act an adverb or a historical personage with proper abandon. There were also, very often, shrill arguments concerning rules. These were waged entirely among the family, and frequently ended in all four of them leaving the room and retiring upstairs, where, later on, they might be discovered, by any guest bold enough to go in search of them, amicably drinking tea in the kitchen.
It was inevitable that someone should eventually utilize portions of this eccentricity in a play, and I am only grateful that no guest of the Hartley Manners thought of writing Hay Fever before I did.

When you read what Coward had to say about Hay Fever, in Play Parade, about the skill required for this play to be successful, then you can see what a treat it will be to see Jeremy in this production:

Hay Fever is considered by many to be my best comedy. Whether or not this assertion is true, posterity, if it gives it a glance, will be able to judge with more detachment than I. At any rate it has certainly proved to be a great joy to amateurs, owing, I suppose, to the smallness of cast, and the fact that it has only one set, which must lead them, poor dears, to imagine that it is easy to act. This species of delusion being common to amateurs all over the world, no word of mine shall be spoken, no warning finger of experience raised, to discourage them, beyond the timorous suggestion that from the professional standpoint, Hay Fever is far and away one of the most difficult plays to perform that I have ever encountered. To begin with, it has no plot at all, and remarkably little action. Its general effectiveness therefore depends upon expert technique from each and every member of the cast. I am very much attached to Hay Fever. I enjoyed writing it and producing it, and I have frequently enjoyed watching it.

I’m sure we will all enjoy watching it too. Of course, actors are notoriously changeable creatures, it is early days, and other projects may materialise which may take priority. I will, of course, keep you updated when I know more. But for now, this is wonderful news. To see an actor on stage is a rare and memorable experience.

by Gill

18 Responses to “Jeremy Northam to appear in ‘Hay Fever’, February 2012”

  1. LauraP October 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    This is great news, Gill! As you say, it’s early days yet, but how wonderful to have Jeremy back on the stage.

    Now all I have to do is win the lottery so I can get myself to your side of the Atlantic and see him! ; )

    • Gill Fraser Lee October 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

      It is wonderful. I think I imagined he’d decided not to do theatre any more. But that would be a terrible shame, for such a terrific actor. Dare to dream, Laura … I wish I could make your dream come true! x

      • LauraP October 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        Thanks also for the insight about the play–from the author himself, no less!

        Coward was right when he said HF is popular with amateur and community theaters. I’m not sure how I’ve missed seeing it up to this point.

        Keeping my fingers crossed that it works out! February seems like it’s a long way off…

        • Gill Fraser Lee October 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

          I have everything crossed too … and a sanguine face backed up just in case.

  2. Mary October 8, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Thank you for the contribution. Just now the confirmation of the theater engagement and then you have the finished article. At the same time informative about the Thaterstück from Noel Coward.

  3. Robyn Wildman October 9, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Gill, I was so excited when the news broke that he might tread the boards again. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see him on stage and, like you, feared he might not do theatre again! Your confirmation has is such good news!! (I am keeping a measure of caution just in case). Thanks for approaching your friend and getting the answer and thanks for the detail on Hay Fever. It makes me want to see it even more!!

    I fully intend on traveling to London for the run, and hope to meet others JN fans there. Now, it’s trying to organize timing and the like! Looking forward to seeing who else intends to go!

    • Gill Fraser Lee October 9, 2011 at 11:52 am #

      You’re most welcome, Robyn and I look forward to seeing you in London! x

  4. Gordon Harrison October 9, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Hello Gill, thanks for your blog. It is fabulous that you make the effort. I guess I’d rather JN committed to more film roles or TV – hard for non-British people to see him perform in plays. Still perhaps this indicates that he is over what seemed to be a self-imposed hiatus after Miami Medical. Re treading the boards – didn’t he do ‘Old Times’, the Pinter play in London around the time of The Tudors? best wishes, Gordon

    • Gill Fraser Lee October 9, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      Hello Gordon, good to see you here and thanks for your kind words. I can understand your desire for film or tv rather than a play: it is rather a long way for you to travel! Jeremy did indeed appear in Old Times, in 2004, his most recent stage role. A rather different play!

      • Gordon Harrison October 10, 2011 at 10:51 am #

        Thank-you Gill, I should have checked my facts first! I didn’t realise Old Times was that long ago. I remember reading about a fan waiting to see him at the stagedoor after the show and (I think) he came out with a cigarette. Always been surprised that JN smoked cigarettes…. not sure why… Gordon

        • Gill Fraser Lee October 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

          You’re most welcome 🙂 As far as I’m aware, a lot of actors smoke.

  5. Ansie October 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Thanks Gill for your informative and interesting post! It’s great news to hear about JN’s newest project, although like Gordon I wish he’d do more films or TV to better reach a wider audience. Perhaps he has a movie lined up after the play ends! Well, I can dream, can’t I? 🙂

    I look forward to future updates about this project. Thanks again!

    PS – Beautiful blog! I love the new look!

    • Gill Fraser Lee October 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      Thanks Ansie. x Fingers crossed for a movie in the not too distant future 🙂 I’m glad you like the blog’s new clothes.

  6. Martina October 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Gosh! Those are fantastic news, indeed! Although it is highly improbable for me, too, ever to watch the play I´m so happy to hear that that great actor is doing for what he´s made for!
    And thanks so much for tracking the first hint (I think it came from Joan) and unfurling it for us in that good and extensive way – unfortunately I am unfamiliar with the play 😦
    Great job here!
    x Martina

    • Gill Fraser Lee October 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      It’s great news and I do hope you might get a chance to come and see it, Martina. x

  7. Gayle Cooley October 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    I am thrilled Jeremy will be doing theater again. I can only hope that just maybe, the production will come to LA and I can see it.

  8. Jennythenipper October 18, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    Thanks for this and thanks for providing the background on HF. I’m so jealous of you all I can hardly stand it. Perhaps its for the best. If I were in the same space with Jeremy Northam I might require removal from the theater.

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