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Andrew Scott is simply amazing as egomaniac Garry Essendine in The Old Vic’s Present Laughter

Present Laughter

The Old Vic, London                                             Until August 10, 2hrs 30mins

Rating:

Noël Coward thought sex a bit over-rated. In the end you can’t really beat an apple and a good book.

That’s the conclusion reached by the preening, mirror-kissing, egomaniac star Garry Essendine in Coward’s witty self-portrait.

Essendine (an anagram of neediness) is about to tour Africa, which is what you do when your overseas public needs you and you’ve hit 40. ‘God I look 98,’ he says, panicking at his hairline.

An amazing Andrew Scott devours the part of Garry in Coward's self-portrait but Matthew Warchus's gender-flipping sees Garry now seduced by a man (Enzo Cilenti, above with Scott)

An amazing Andrew Scott devours the part of Garry in Coward’s self-portrait but Matthew Warchus’s gender-flipping sees Garry now seduced by a man (Enzo Cilenti, above with Scott)

This posturing part is taken – devoured in fact – by the amazing Andrew Scott, pure box-office gold thanks to his work as the hot priest in Fleabag, Moriarty in Sherlock and the best Hamlet of this decade.

We first meet Garry trying to get rid of a young actress the morning after. Directed here by Matthew Warchus, the play has had some gender-flipping. 

In a key scene, Garry is now seduced by a man, renamed Joe (Enzo Cilenti), the husband of his producer, who is now Helen (Suzie Toase), formerly Henry. 

Is such a gender-flipping liberty warranted? That is up to the audience to decide. However, of the rest of the cast, only Indira Varma (above) really shines as Garry's still-smitten ex-wife Liz

Is such a gender-flipping liberty warranted? That is up to the audience to decide. However, of the rest of the cast, only Indira Varma (above) really shines as Garry’s still-smitten ex-wife Liz

Their manly snog on opening night got a shocked, solo ‘oooh’ from the dress circle.

But is such a liberty warranted? The director says it’s what Coward would have wanted had he been able to write scenes of gay love back in 1939. I think the disciplinarian Coward would have called Warchus a very rude word he reserved for any actor who messed up his plays.

Scott, however, makes the stunt work. While normally you want to throttle Essendine, there’s a sweetness of soul in this performance that explains why his inner circle forgives and adores him. 

Scott is the compelling reason not to miss this door-slamming farce. He’s everything you hope for: hilarious and at all times terminally theatrical. Above: Kitty Archer as Daphne Stillington

Scott is the compelling reason not to miss this door-slamming farce. He’s everything you hope for: hilarious and at all times terminally theatrical. Above: Kitty Archer as Daphne Stillington

It’s all staged on Rob Howell’s blue Art Deco Thirties set.

Sophie Thompson gives Garry’s loyal secretary a rather blaring Scots accent, Liza Sadovy is laborious as the spiritualist Scandinavian cleaner, and Luke Thallon never knowingly under-acts as the young wannabe playwright. Only Indira Varma shines as Garry’s still smitten ex-wife Liz.

Scott is the compelling reason not to miss this door-slamming farce. 

He’s everything you hope for: hilarious and at all times terminally theatrical. He even finds a well of inner loneliness in a comedy that’s puddle deep. 

  

On Your Feet!

London Coliseum                                                   Until August 31, 2hrs 30mins

Rating:

This musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan – their musical career, their marriage – is standard jukebox fare: the music and dancing sizzles, but the script and acting too often fizzles.

Drama is found in battles with record label bosses, conflict with Gloria’s mother and in a horrific bus crash. But the emotional lifting is left to big ballads, which frequently are merely schmaltzy and rather dull.

But maybe that doesn’t matter, because if the storytelling is no great shakes, the big upbeat Latin dance numbers certainly are. 

In this musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan (Christie Prades and George Ioannides, above centre), the music and dancing sizzles, but the script and acting too often fizzles

In this musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan (Christie Prades and George Ioannides, above centre), the music and dancing sizzles, but the script and acting too often fizzles

Sergio Trujillo’s extravagant yet taut choreography explodes in candy-coloured or sequin-strewn costumes across the stage, while the tropical juiciness of the band sounds brilliant (and suitably loud). 

Christie Prades is appealingly guileless as Gloria, while George Ioannides is dashing as Emilio, and the show celebrates the fact that these Cuban immigrants, with a lot of hard work, became global megastars. 

‘This is what an American looks like,’ Emilio tells his manager, when he refuses to believe Latin music has crossover appeal. The crowd applauds – and more than three decades later, Conga still also gets them on their feet.

Holly Williams 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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