By Noel Coward.
The Old Vic,The Cut, London SE1 8NB to 10 August 2019.
Mon- Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7628
Reviews: William Russell 26 June.
Andrew Scott is firing on all cylinders as matinee idol Garry Essendine facing up to getting old and a chaotic love life in this sparkling revival directed by Matthew Warchus. He is not the only reason for going – the supporting cast is strong – but he is, as the theatre publicity admits, the real reason. He is a man tormented, a man who has to be adored, a man scared to death about what might happen when that adoration disappears. The Coward estate has allowed Warchus to change things by making Garry bi sexual and turning several other female characters, including Joanna, the most troublesome woman, into gay men. It is a modish thing to do, and works well enough although the fact that there is no chemistry at all between Essendine and his seducer, Joe Lyppiatt played by Enzo Cilenti means the play has lost something. The predatory female was dangerous, could upset Garry’s carefully constructed life. This far from predatory male is just another body to be tossed aside and, since there are other gay men in Garry’s world, nobody will turn a hair. The ditched toy boy is perfectly common.
Warchus and Scott to give us a man staring into the abyss at the end – Garry is looking out of a window contemplating the uncertain future all acting s face what while his ever present ex wife sits there watching, a slightly malevolent guardian angel. However Scott, twisting and turning, lying in the face of adversity, and claiming to be misunderstood is a joy to watch. Sophie Thompson does a nice turn as his loyal PA Monica, Luke Thallon is very funny as the mad playwright Roland Maule who intrudes into Garry’s life and will not go away, and Indira Varma is sleek, elegant and controlling as ex wife Liz who still controls his life, except he doesn’t know it. The sex changes are a matter of opinion and the Coward estate obviously did not object, but the evening would have been every bit as good were it the play Coward wrote rather than one Warchus and presumably Scott wished he had that was being performed.
Present Laughter is not the best Coward comedy, but if it has to be revived this is about as good as it gets and the picture he creates of the court that surround such acting gods is very funny and bitchy and, since he was one himself, as near to the truth as one could get.
Scott is truly on the top of his game. Fleabag transformed him into a sex god from being just a dazzlingly good actor so his pretending to be a matinee idol is perfect casting.
Garry Essendine: Andrew Scott
Daphne Stillington: Kitty Archer.
Joe Lyppiatt: Enzo Cilenti
Fred: Joshua Hill.
Morris Dixon: Abdul Salis.
Miss Erikson/Lady Saltburn: Liza Sadovy.
Roland Maule: Luke Thallon.
Monica Reid: Sophie Thompson.
Helen Lyppiatt: Suzie Toase.
Liz Essendine: Indira Varma.
Director: Matthew Warchus.
Set & Costume Design: Rob Howell.
Sound: Simon Baker.
Voice: Charlie Hughes D’Aeth.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin & Hugh Vanstone.
Production Photographs: Alastair Muir/AMX.