20 July 2017 | blanche-2
part of the Noel Coward Collection
This is a taped live performance of Present Laughter, by Noel Coward, a 1981 production.
Here the role of Garry Essendine is played by Donald Sinden. Noel Coward, of course, wrote it for himself and starred in it, but other Garrys have included Clifton Webb, George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Nathan Lane, Peter O'Toole, Simon Callow, Ian McKellen, and most recently on Broadway, Kevin Kline, to mention just a few.
The story concerns a famous theatre star (who seems to be acting all the time), Garry Essendine (Sinden). While planning a tour of a play in Africa, he has dalliances with a debutante and his producer's wife, meets with an insane playwright, deals with his secretary's demands as well as those of his ex-wife.
It's chaotic, with people hiding in the spare room, the playwright continuing to show up, the incessant phone calls, the maid wandering through the house, the women -- it's a circus.
Present Laughter is semiautobiographical, farcical, and quite fun with marvelous performances. Essendine is a John Barrymore in Twentieth Century type, overblown, vain, with an ego the size of California, who lies about his age, constantly changes dressing gowns, has "woe is me" monologues, and at one point falls to the floor and begs his ex-wife to lift his head and give him a drink. Sinden plays the role with great abandon, as the character is always "on," always performing, and yet underneath it all is childlike, lonely, and lovable.
While it may seem over the top, that's the style. Very enjoyable.