Back in the mid 1990’s, the Blue Mountains Theatre Company mounted a production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. Mirinda directed it and I played the lead, Garry Essendine. Among a lot of roles, Garry was easily one of my favourites (Henry Higgins is up there as well). Garry is always acting, he’s the sun surrounded by a solar system of planets who have the job of protecting him. It is an exceptionally funny play.
As a role to play, Garry is an actor’s gift, a divine present from a playwright at the top of his game. To say I loved playing him would be a gross understatement.
We have never seen another production of Present Laughter (actually I’ve never seen any, given I was in one) so when I spotted that the Old Vic was presenting it, I jumped at buying a ticket regardless of who or when or anything else. And tonight we saw it.
Garry Essendine was played by Andrew Scott, an actor of great scope, talent and skill. While I thought he was just a bit screechy, he was delightfully hilarious. He didn’t stop, with an unbelievable energy that flooded the stage. Even when not speaking, he commanded attention. In a word he was superb.
The rest of the cast was equally up to the task. They are there to merely point to Garry as the centre of the universe. We were left in absolutely no doubt that this was the case. Kitty Archer, Liza Sadovy, Joshua Hill, Sophie Thompson, Indira Varma, Luke Thallon, Suzie Toase, Abdul Salis and Enzo Cilenti were all excellent. There was not a weak link in the entire production.
And we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the production. In a sell out house, all but one person was in fits of hysteria from beginning to end. (The one person who didn’t was in the very middle of the front row. He didn’t smile and was struggling to keep his eyes open. I’d love to know what the cast thought because he was very obvious. Personally I wondered why he was there at all.)
I thought the decision to play around with the genders was interesting. It didn’t detract though I think a lot of older audiences might disapprove. It would never have worked that way in the Blue Mountains when we did it.