Review Roundup: See What Critics Thought of PRESENT LAUGHTER

Review Roundup: See What Critics Thought of PRESENT LAUGHTER

Matthew Warchus directs Andrew Scott in Noel Coward's provocative comedy, Present Laughter, opening last night, 25 June, at the Old Vic.

The cast also includes Luke Thallon, Sophie Thompson, Suzie Toase and Indira Varma.

Director, Matthew Warchus, said: 'Originally titled Sweet Sorrow, Noel Coward's most autobiographical work is a giddy and passionate observation of narcissism, hero worship and loneliness. Most of my favourite plays are comedies with added emotional dimensions and Present Laughter is a laugh-out-loud sex comedy with, I think, surprising depths. I'm delighted to be working with Andrew Scott again (after collaborating on the film Pride), together with what promises to be a cast of outstanding comic actors.'

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: Great Scott! His recent turn as Fleabag's Hot Priest made him a global sex symbol. Now, Andrew Scott reminds audiences that he's just as irresistible on stage, leading Matthew Warchus's absolute romp of a Noël Coward revival with the kind of panache that makes this the comic performance of the year so far - and yet one also shot through with aching melancholy.

Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard: Strong support comes from Sophie Thompson, suitably caustic as Garry's secretary Monica, and Indira Varma as his elegant, canny and not completely estranged wife Liz. Some of the ripest scenes rely on the sure comic touch of Luke Thallon, as an earnest, manic young playwright who's excited by rejection, and Kitty Archer impresses as a social butterfly drawn to Garry's sparkle.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: Andrew Scott gives a virtuosic performance in Noël Coward's imperishable 1943 comedy. He lends the hero, Garry Essendine, a mixture of twinkling charm and driving egomania characteristic of the kind of actor-manager Coward was portraying and possibly of the author himself. It is a richly funny performance even if Matthew Warchus's production occasionally displays the frenzy that seems an ingredient of modern comedy.

Paul Taylor, The Independent: The performances are superb across the board, and I have never seen the careering farce-momentum that the piece develops played with a lovelier disciplined abandon. Indira Varma captures just the right note of bitter, almost unscrupulous, protectiveness of her ex-husband. Best of all is Luke Thallon's sublimely funny take on Roland Maule. He's the dowdy, talentless would-be playwright who travels from Uckfield to petition Garry. Roland is supposed to represent the callow complacencies of the New Wave theatre of ideas.

Will Longman, Director Matthew Warchus' production strips out a lot of the pomp and class from the play; Garry is a successful actor, but he isn't portrayed as just a funny snob here. He's actually pretty tragic. When he's alone he hangs around the phone longing - sometimes literally begging - for company, and when it inevitably arrives, he can't stand it. What sets this production apart from its many counterparts is the special permission the Coward estate has given Warchus to employ some gender-swapping to the script: theatre producer Henry has become Helen, while his wife Joanna is now a man, Joe, presenting a queer plot twist to Essendine's womanising character.

Alice Saville, Time Out London: Coward's comedy lets Scott show off both his endless proficiency for delivering a well-timed quip, and his physical virtuosity. Each time Essedine's resentful friends accused him of overacting (and that happens a lot) his gestures amplify until he's carving his frustrations into the indifferent air. He shrugs off a new dressing gown his ex-wife gives him with the sinuous grace of a cat wriggling out of an expensive new collar, effusively praising it all the while. And his chemistry with Joe, the lover he takes against everyone's better judgment, mixes a mocking knowingness with a desperate intensity that makes the audience gasp.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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