'Present Laughter' is the third Noel Coward play to be presented at the Gate - to star Stephen Brennan and to be directed by Alan Stanford. It seems this formula has become a standard and given the packed houses each production has attracted who can argue? Unfortunately the problem with the previous incarnations 'Blithe Spirit' and 'Private Lives' was that these witty subtle comedies were played as farces with every possible opportunity for a belly-laugh exploited and every one-liner loudly declared - in case we missed it.
This time however everything gels perfectly. Largely because for most of the time 'Present laughter' actually is a farce. In fact one of the characters even says so in the last act. Stephen Brennan actually downplays the part of Gary Essendine for the most part saving his explosive rants for when they can be most effective. The dialogue is delivered crisply and witheringly throughout and is as funny now as it was when it was written nearly 70 years ago. Essendine is an aging matinee idol of the 1930s theatre. He is arrogant and egotistical and is protected from reality by his ex-wife and by his secretary - and by the fact that he still attracts the young and starry-eyed - to his 'Spare bedroom'. Unfortunately for him he also attracts the attentions of a mad experimental playwright (John Kavanagh in cords) who is determined he appear in his play.
What impresses most about this play is how everything works. Here is a cast of 11 people and everyone of them a significant part with Fiona Bell as the Scottish secretary and Paris Jefferson as the ex-wife being particularly good. Then there is the set design which as soon as you set eyes on it you are in a luxury London flat from the early 20th century and finally the luxurious costumes which actually look like clothes people would wear. All in all a great night's entertainment.