Superbly acted and hugely enjoyable

Theatre review by Hannah Richardson

Thursday, 14th July 2016, 4:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:45 pm
Samuel West and Phyllis Logan in Present Laughter

Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, at Milton Keynes Theatre, had me captivated almost from curtain up.

Not having seen a Noel Coward play on stage before, I wondered whether it would seem very stilted and artificial to a modern audience.

But it was the ease and naturalness of the acting that impressed me from the beginning. No clipped, cut-glass ‘BBC English’ but a huge warmth and rapport between the characters which made them totally believeable.

Phyllis Logan in Present Laughter

The farce-like plot concerns ageing, vain matinee idol Garry Essendine, prone to tantrums and casual affairs, who is about to set sail for Africa.

But complications arise in the form of would-be seductresses, not to mention his long­-suffering secretary, his estranged wife, and an obsessed young playwright.

Silly and lots of fun it may be, but this is much more than just a farce. The wonderful humour and witty dialogue are as much a treat for the mind as the elegant costumes are for the eyes.

The quality of the acting is outstanding.

Phyllis Logan in Present Laughter

Samuel West, Rebecca Johnson and Phyllis Logan head up the cast superbly as Garry, his ex-wife, Liz, and his acerbic secretary, Monica.

The rapport between these three main characters is hugely enjoyable, as they combine perpetual sniping at each other with genuine warmth and affection.

Daisy Boulton is almost heartbreakingly believable as the gullible Daphne Stillington, head over heels in love with the caddish Essendine and fooling herself that she alone knows the ‘real’ Garry.

And there were entertaining comic performances from Sally Tatum as the housekeeper, Miss Erikson, and Patrick Walshe McBride as would-be playwright Roland Maule.

Present Laughter is at MK Theatre until Saturday.

Box office: 0844 871 7652 or visit