Yesterday evening I went to my local cinema where they were streaming a revival of Noel Coward’s play ‘Present Laughter’ which received considerable critical acclaim at the Old Vic in London.
Not from me it didn’t.
According to its own self congratulatory blurb the Old Vic describes itself as ‘unpredictable, ground breaking…’ etc. etc. (fill in your own clichés)
Coward wrote and originally starred in this play himself. This is a hard act to follow and finding an actor who can do a self obsessed act-or these days surprisingly ain’t so easy. They’re mostly off saving the planet and trying desperately to be relevant. Offhand I think Anthony Andrews or Rupert Everett could do it ( both too old unfortunately for the part of Garry). Andrew Scott who played Garry is a good actor if you want wrapped- too-tight but this play requires something more subtle. Never mind though: in a desperate attempt to be ‘ground-breaking’ Garry’s love interest is a man. How very daring! The only trouble is that having given the script a tweak they forgot to do the same with the character of Joe who comes across as a leering lothario who has stumbled into the wrong play. He would have been perfect in one of those eighties BBC comedies they don’t show any more, like ‘Allo ‘Allo where he’d be seen lecherously paying compliments to a lady in an attempt to have his wicked way. A bit like being seduced by Captain Bertorelli.
When interfering with a script written by a master of his craft you’d better know what you’re doing. Present Laughter seems to have been got at by a first year drama student.
On the other hand Indira Varma can do Coward brilliantly. Unfortunately she’s female.