Mon 8 – Sat 13 Aug
Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm
By Andrew M Collins
Noel Coward wrote Present Laughter very much with himself in mind – creating a semi-autobiographical vehicle to show off his coruscating wit, boundless charm and matchless repartee.
It is the last in the series of comedies which included Hay Fever, Private Lives and Design for Living.
The protagonist Garry Essendine was born – himself a famous actor, fighting his descent into middle age tooth and claw, whilst vainly trying to hold on to his youth – one young lady at a time.
Essendine lives in splendid surroundings ever attended to by his faithful and loyal secretary, Monica (Phyllis Logan), cheeky butler Fred (Martin Hancock), and slightly bonkers Swedish maid Miss Erikson (Sally Tatum).
The set is the living room, where the first appearance is a young lady, Daphne (Daisy Boulton). She’d ‘forgotten her latch key’ the night before under the pretext of spending the night with Garry.
As the staff enter, it seems it is far from unusual to have a lady guest in the spare room. The man she is in love with finally appears, but carefully skilfully convinces her to leave, even quoting Shelley at her impressionable mind.
His estranged wife, Liz (Rebecca Johnson) then turns up, claiming his manager Morris (Jason Morell) is having an affair with Joanna (Zoe Boyle), the wife of Garry’s producer Harry (Toby Longworth).
Exasperated by this news, he is further perplexed when a young, besotted playwright, Roland Maude (Patrick McBride) bursts in, desperate for critique of his play from his hero.
He’s finally got rid of as it becomes quickly apparent he is unhinged.
Garry later confronts Morris over the affair with Joanna, which he denies. Joanna in turn, later turns up to seduce Garry. Liz discover this and tries to blackmail Joanna.
This is all too much for the beleaguered Essendine who plots to flee to Africa to escape all the madness and love trysts. However, circumstances unfold which may well thwart his plans …
Director Stephen Unwin has crafted a finessed and hugely enjoyable affair. Sparkling dialogue and titillating psychological duels delights throughout.
A door-slamming farce – certainly, but also a nostalgic, light hearted look back into late 1930s sensibilities and mores.
Samuel West is superlative as Essendine / Coward, and together with a wonderful supporting cast, make Present Laughter an enormously satisfying night out.
Two of the UK’s favourite actors lead the cast in one of Noël Coward’s funniest comedies as a brand new production of Present Laughter arrives at Theatre Royal Brighton.
This brand new production stars Samuel West as the flamboyant and self obsessed actor, Garry Essendine, and Phyllis Logan as Monica Reed, his long suffering secretary. Stephen Unwin directs.
Charming diva Garry Essendine is determined to disregard his advancing years by revelling in endless tantrums and casual affairs.
He may be teetering reluctantly towards middle age but everyone is infatuated by Garry, and his antics and rampant flirtations require the most careful handling by those closest to him.
About to depart for Africa, he finds himself besieged by a bevy of would be seductresses, not to mention his acerbic secretary, his estranged wife, and an obsessed young playwright.
As he attempts to disentangle himself from their clutches and demands, the sparkling comedy escalates.
Noël Coward’s semi autobiographical comedy, set in the glamorous world of theatre, is a gloriously witty portrait of the life that whirled around Coward in his heyday and is widely considered to be one of his best loved works.
Filled with the brilliant lines of a master craftsman, this new production blends razor sharp wit, dazzlingly funny dialogue, captivating characters and fabulous sets and costumes.
Samuel West has performed extensively on stage and screen. He played Frank Edwards in all four series of ITV’s hit drama series Mr Selfridge and, earlier this year, performed in BBC’s The Hollow Crown, marking Shakespeare’s anniversary.
His other television credits include Cambridge Spies, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Garrow’s Law, Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley, Waking the Dead and Any Human Heart. His film credits include Howards End, Notting Hill, Van Helsing, Iris, Persuasion and Hyde Park on Hudson.
Amongst his numerous stage roles, he has portrayed Richard II and Hamlet on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Phyllis Logan’s numerous television credits include all six series of the multi award winning ITV drama Downton Abbey, in which she played the housekeeper Mrs Hughes, voted by The Radio Times as their favourite character of the entire series.
Over a period of eight years, she also played the role of Lady Jane in forty eight episodes of the long running BBC drama Lovejoy.
Her film roles include Monica in Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies, Agnes Scott in Every Picture Tells A Story, and Janie in Another Time, Another Place, for which she won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Film in 1984.
Amongst her stage roles, she has played Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare’s Richard III at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, and performed many times at the Hampstead Theatre.
Director Stephen Unwin was the Artistic Director of Kingston’s Rose Theatre from 2008 to 2014, where his 2010 production of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever starring Celia Imrie, received great critical acclaim. In 1993 he founded English Touring Theatre, for whom he was Artistic Director for fifteen years.
Noël Coward wrote Present Laughter as he approached his fortieth birthday. Written in 1939 and first performed in 1942, the original run featured Noël Coward in the lead role.
Over the past seventy years, the play has been performed worldwide, enjoying numerous revivals in Europe and North America, including a US tour in 1958 with Coward reprising his role. In subsequent productions, some of the many actors to play Garry have included Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole and Ian McKellen.
Playwright, composer, actor, author, director, producer and master of wit, Noël Coward (1899 – 1973) remains one of our most distinguished and celebrated icons.
Coward had written over fifteen plays by the time he was in his mid thirties including the enormous hits Hay Fever, Private Lives and Cavalcade. Despite his comparative youth, the first of many Coward biographies had already been written.
Some of his other many famous plays include Design for Living (1933); Blithe Spirit (1941); and Relative Values (1951).
His films include This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945), Brief Encounter (1945), and In Which We Serve (1942), which brought him Oscar nominations for Best Writer and Best Picture, and he received a special Honorary Academy Award for outstanding production achievement. Noël Coward was knighted in 1970.
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