Present Laughter

‘Fame puts you there where things are hollow,’ yells a singer at the beginning of ‘Present Laughter’, as the cast gyrate to the music.

Noel Coward understood the vacuous, empty nature of the world of celebrity many years before David Bowie echoed his sentiments in song. And in turn, Changeling Theatre has updated Present Laughter to show us how relevant Coward’s work is in today’s celebrity obsessed world.

Welcome to the world of lauded theatrical darling Garry Essendine who is equally exasperating and frustrating to the friends, staff and lovers who do his bidding as they are to him.

The cast of Present Laughter

As the play increases in pace, the conflicting desires of all the characters ensure that the tension, farce and comedy are ratcheted up to an exhausting level.

The stamina and passion that the Changeling Theatre cast bring to this play is impressive, particularly when doing battle with the afternoon heat and traffic noises in the otherwise idyllic setting of Magdalen College School gardens, as part of Oxford Festival Of The Arts wonderful programme.

Present Laughter

Special praise must be given to George Naylor who channels his inner Rik Mayall as Garry and to Rosie Taylor-Ritson who carries off both zombie-like elderly maid Mrs. Erikson and the flouncingly entitled Joanna with great aplomb.

We are drawn into the action even further as the cast subtly interact with the audience while the script substitutes the original places and names with current ones, although it has to be said, there’s enough silk dressing gowns, sherry and posh pronunciation of ‘AfriCAR’ to ensure we never forget we’re watching a Noel Coward play.

Garry in Present Laughter

If the first two acts are primarily there to lay the groundwork for the wonderful, farcical chaos that engulfs all the characters in the final scenes, by the end I’d narrowed it down to a four-word review: ‘You MUST see this!’

Edward Bliss

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