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Present Laughter: Play (Acting Edition) [Paperback]

Noel Coward
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 9.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

Jan 1976 Acting Edition
At the centre of his own universe sits matinee idol Garry Essendine: suave, hedonistic and too old, says his wife, to be having numerous affairs. His line in harmless, infatuated debutantes is largely tolerated but playing closer to home is not. Just before he escapes on tour to Africa the full extent of his misdemeanours is discovered. And all hell breaks loose. Noel Coward's Present Laughter premiered in the early years of the Second World War just as such privileged lives were threatened with fundamental social change. This edition of the play is published to coincide with the National Theatre's production running from September 2007. The text features an introduction that considers the directorial decisions and interpretation in the National's production.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Frequently Bought Together

Present Laughter: Play (Acting Edition) + Three Plays: "Blithe Spirit", "Hay Fever", "Private Lives" (Vintage International)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 97 pages
  • Publisher: Samuel French Ltd; Acting ed edition (Jan 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0573013543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0573013546
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Terrific treats. A top-notch cast headed by an actor at the peak of his comic powers. Splendid performances all round. A singularly successful evening.' Independent --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Noel Coward made his name as a playwright with The Vortex (1924), in which he also appeared. His numerous other successful plays included Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, and Blithe Spirit. During the war he wrote screenplays such as Brief Encounter (1944) and This Happy Breed (1942). His volumes of verse, autobiography and letters have all been published to acclaim by Methuen Drama. Coward was knighted in 1970 and died three years later in Jamaica. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
A fast-paced and witty bedroom farce of the 1930s, Present Laughter was written by Coward as a vehicle in which he himself planned to star, and it may well reflect some of the less attractive aspects of his own life. The play concerns a well-known, 40-ish actor, Gary Essendine, who is about to set off for a series of performances in Africa. Essendine enjoys all the perks of stardom, including women who can't resist him, fawning fans, and late nights of partying, followed by late mornings of undisturbed sleeping. Though he is married to Liz, they have been separated for a couple of years, and neither minds the other's dalliances, or the serial dalliances of their circle of friends.
In the course of the play, several women "forget their latch keys" and have to spend the night at Essendine's apartment, where his secretary, valet, and housekeeper hide them to keep succeeding visitors from discovering them. One of them, Joanna, is married to Essendine's friend Henry, but she has had a long-standing affair with another friend, Morris, and she seduces Essendine in the course of the play. In the midst of all this deception, a young playwright also arrives, wanting to know if Essendine has read his play, at the same time confessing to having an obsession with Essendine himself, before he is shuttled off to the office when yet another unexpected visitor arrives.
As is always the case with Coward, each scene sets the stage for the next scene, and the play unfolds with dramatic ease and considerable dramatic irony. The characterizations are exaggerated for comic effect, and the dialogue is witty, with many tongue-in-cheek remarks, as the all-consuming game of "musical beds," "heartfelt" confessions, and diabolical scheming takes place.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You are no more serious about the pangs of love than I am." 10 April 2005
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A fast-paced and witty bedroom farce of the 1930s, Present Laughter was written by Coward as a vehicle in which he himself planned to star, and it may well reflect some of the less attractive aspects of his own life. The play concerns a well-known, 40-ish actor, Gary Essendine, who is about to set off for a series of performances in Africa. Essendine enjoys all the perks of stardom, including women who can't resist him, fawning fans, and late nights of partying, followed by late mornings of undisturbed sleeping. Though he is married to Liz, they have been separated for a couple of years, and neither minds the other's dalliances, or the serial dalliances of their circle of friends.

In the course of the play, several women "forget their latch keys" and have to spend the night at Essendine's apartment, where his secretary, valet, and housekeeper hide them to keep succeeding visitors from discovering them. One of them, Joanna, is married to Essendine's friend Henry, but she has had a long-standing affair with another friend, Morris, and she seduces Essendine in the course of the play. In the midst of all this deception, a young playwright also arrives, wanting to know if Essendine has read his play, at the same time confessing to having an obsession with Essendine himself, before he is shuttled off to the office when yet another unexpected visitor arrives.

As is always the case with Coward, each scene sets the stage for the next scene, and the play unfolds with dramatic ease and considerable dramatic irony. The characterizations are exaggerated for comic effect, and the dialogue is witty, with many tongue-in-cheek remarks, as the all-consuming game of "musical beds," "heartfelt" confessions, and diabolical scheming takes place. Fast pace is crucial to the action, demanding the split second appearances and disappearances of some characters as new characters enter and depart.

Though the hijinx are distinctly sexual, the play maintains an elegance of language and an on-stage formality. The clever repartee never descends to vulgarity, and the love scenes all take place off-stage. Universal in its observations of human nature, this play is still being revived and finding audiences after more than half a century. This play and Private Lives are Coward at his best. Mary Whipple
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His most revealing? 6 Sep 2004
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Garry Essendine, the hero of PRESENT LAUGHTER, is almost transparently Coward's idea of himself as the complete theater man whose life depends, in a odd twist of dependency itself, on the loyalty and cooperation of a vast staff of employees, most of whom know better than he what he is like and what he needs to go on. These include Monica Reed, his beautiful, devoted secretary who sees right through him llike Bette Davis seeing through Sheridan Whiteside in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER. Then there is Liz, Garry's wife who left him but never managed to divorce him, which allows him to play loose with all the young ladies who have fallen for their aging matinee idol.

In Coward's case, the reason he needed a bulwark to fend off young female admirers is because he was gay, and in PRESENT LAUGHTER, the characterization of the young pretentious playwright Ronald Maule, who becomes a slave to garry Essendine through a bit of ill-advised personal contact, is surprisingly frank for its day (wartime UK). The whole play is filled with Coward's trademark dialogue, as Garry is constantly false and hilariously hysterical, while all the other characters continually deflate him with their loving barbs. If it is not Coward's best play, then I don't know what is.
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