The Theatre Royal summer season is upon us and Present Laughter is the first of four plays on offer this year.
Present Laughter is a good antidote to the current social turmoil. Coward is at his sparkling best with a plot following a few days in the life of the successful and self-obsessed light comedy actor Garry Essendine as he prepares to travel for a touring commitment in Africa. Amid a series of events bordering on farce, Garry has to deal with women who want to seduce him, placate both his long-suffering secretary and his estranged wife, cope with a crazed young playwright, and overcome his impending mid life crisis.


Performances are excellent. Phyllis Logan (Monica Reed) commands the stage with great timing and caustic charm as the much maligned Secretary keeping the childish Samuel West (Garry Essendine) on a tight leash whilst Zoe Boyle (Joanna Boyle) is a resplendent prowling temptress declaring her passions for Garry. The dizzying pace of the humour is well balanced although occasionally lines are lost over the audience laughter. However, Patrick Walshe McBride (Roland Maule) makes the most of the deranged script writer with maniacal joy.


The entire production is beautifully designed by Simon Higlett, the costumes are sumptuous and the static set suitably elegant.


Whilst the script occasionally delves into analysing the nature of acting and whether Essendine is able to be honest and “himself” the overall thrust is one of great fun with picture perfect moments of true quality.


This is well worth the frivolity and escapism. The Theatre Royal is kicking off the Summer Season with great style.

**** – 4 Stars

Petra Schofield