Last Updated on 16th June 2023
Paul T Davies reviews the recent Broadway production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter starring Kevin Kline now streaming on BroadwayHD
Streaming now on BroadwayHD.
I will admit to having mixed feelings towards Noel Coward. His was a world I never engage in, his theatre a world I rarely visit, and the man was a dreadful snob. His characters are all so terribly terribly posh, and his working-class characters are all looked down upon, objects of fun and terrible stereotypes. Yet he also lampooned his world brilliantly, and he created Brief Encounter, and the Kneehigh version is on my top ten of all time. Here, he also lampoons the theatre world, (well, the 1930s theatre world), and one has to admire his skill at bringing the farce together.
Present Laughter is the tale of self-obsessed, egotistical light comedy actor Garry Essindine on the eve of a tour to Africa. He has to deal with women obsessed with him, a crazed playwright, his ex-wife, his long-suffering secretary and his impending mid life crisis. Director Moritz Von Stuelpnagel pitches the production at the highest pitch possible, and it doesn’t really come down from there, which can be a bit weary over the course of two or so hours. But it pays off handsomely in a well-executed third act, the farce and timing of the highest order.
There is much to enjoy, not least the superbly comedic performance of Kevin Kline as Garry. He seems to be channelling several British Knights of the theatre, and his accent and timing are excellent. He is matched by a wonderful succession of actresses, not least Kristine Nielsen as Monica. Some of the performances are pitched far too over the top, especially Bhavesh Patel as playwright Roland, but you won’t be coming to this play to enjoy naturalism! The design is beautiful and the world of rich theatre folk is captured perfectly. Get beyond the slightly tedious first act and this is a production that satisfies in its delivery of farce and comic timing, and it’s wonderful that Kline’s’ performance has been preserved in this streaming.