by Noel Coward
29th June – 4th July, 2009
Business for Monica, pleasure for Garry and Daphne
A few home truths for Garry from Liz
Morris and Garry
Roland is a real bore
Popular actor Gary Essendine revels in being a temperamental prima donna. Now separated from his wife Liz, he is constantly pursued by bright young things but when he becomes more deeply involved with Joanna, his manager’s wife, it becomes clear that it will be difficult to extricate himself, Liz returns and tries to resume her control over him.
Very few directors have the opportunity to both top and tail a BLT season and, although I'm back only as a late replacement for the original director, it's still a great honour and with a Noel Coward play.
With Coward audiences know what to expect - a play that is witty, elegant, light, stylish, sophisticated - and with no bad language! The pressure on the director of course, is to make sure that his production meets those expectations, but with a stellar cast tonight (an intriguing mix of familiar and new faces, of experience and youth) and many with considerable experience of the musical stage and therefore accustomed to the light touch, we should have no problems with doing justice to the Master's work. Any falls from grace will be my fault, not theirs. Even so, Coward purists may notice some changes. Plays of the period were long and in three acts not suited to modern audiences, so we've made compromises in, I hope, a sympathetic way.
Present Laughter is not performed as often as Coward's better-known works, but it is interesting in that he wrote the lead part of Garry Essendine for himself, and starred in the original West End production, so generations of amateur psychologists have been able to pore over the text in search of the real Noel Coward! I don't know if any of them found him.
The endless fascination of theatre is in the way that the bits which are visible to the audience and those which are not come together to form a complete product. The superb set of Oliver LIoyd and his student colleague Louise Hewson didn't just happen. And where do period telephones and sofas come from? How do actors change clothes so quickly? Who put this programme together? Don't ask me, I'm only the director. So, as always, thanks to everyone who has made this such a happy and rewarding experience, with one final indulgence- a special thank you to my stage manager (who also answered the call at the last minute). In art, as in life, I'd never get to first base without her.
Enjoy the play - and come back next season.