Monday, 14 December 2015

"Present Laughter" by Noel Coward.
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre

The plot follows a few days in the life of the successful and self-obsessed light comedy actor Garry Essendine as he prepares to travel for a touring commitment in Africa. Amid a series of events bordering on farce, Garry has to deal with women who want to seduce him, placate both his long-suffering secretary and his estranged wife, cope with a crazed young playwright, and overcome his impending mid-life crisis (since he has recently turned forty). 

Pronounced "present" as in a gift, which this play surely is, it's the Lace Market's alternative to Christmas fare, which, although I love panto, ans there are three excellent pantos in Nottingham this year, it's always nice to have that alternative.

The set is classic 1930's which I loved, as are the costumes; more so for the women and another success for the in house team of Barry Holland and Doreen Hunt. It's also the little things like the props as well as the furniture which gives this play a sense and a feel of the era. I'm sure that Kathy Bobkowska who sourced the props had her work cut out getting that certain feel of the era just about there.

A classy cast brought to life the wonderful comic edge of Coward with the main character, Garry Essendine, which was based on Coward himself, was portrayed by John Parker. And you know I saw less Rigsby and more Coward with John's performance. He pitched the flamboyant character just about right which showed when he went to the over-acting sections, which is supposed to be done, this wasn't a criticism for those of you who don't know the play. The arrogance and vanity of Essendine was marvellously brought out by John.

A fairly large cast for the Lace Market but every character had their own style  From the young fan, Daphne Stillington (Lauren Whitter), the wonderfully understated maid Miss Erikson (Barbara Fisher), couldn't quite place the accent though. The manservant Fred (Paul Johnson) who was well aware of what was going on behind those closed doors, The secretary who also had seen it all before and seemed to double as his P.A. and press officer, Monica (Carol Parkinson), at times Monica seemed to be swimming against the tide there just trying to keep track of Essendine's conquests. All of those lost latch keys!!

Then there was the ex, Liz Essendine (Sarah Taylor), who looked quite amused at the goings on, and well she might as well.The over excitable Roland Maule (Chris Sims), a playwright who Garry has rashly agreed to critique. Henry (Gareth Morris) who is just one of the characters who in the past has confided secrets to Garry is one of the victims of Garry's revelation outspilling. Oh how the secrets are revealed thick and fast.

And there's more! Morris Dixon (Tom Orton) I loved this ever so slightly camp persona with his own brand of over the top. Another who has secrets unearthed in Garry's unburdoning.  Joanna (Chloe Senior) who is another who we find donning Garry's grey pyjamas after losing her latch keys and, surprise surprise she also has secrets to be revealed. And just when you think there can't be any more twists, there comes a twist heralded by the arrival of Lady Saltburn (Shellagh Littlewood) with her niece.... and I'll leave that surprise for you to work out!

A play with many giggles sewn into the fabric, performed by a fun and entertaining cast, and just right for a bit of panto alternative theatre. Oh and if you're a fan of the musical offerings of Coward, get in the theatre in plenty of time as the incidental music at the start and the interval, as well as the end is all Coward, Again showing what a wonderful witty wordsmith the man was.

"Present Laughter" can be seen at The Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 19 December 2015.

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