Present Laughter: a Review

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog, February 2003

There is certainly not much to laugh about in the world at present – so Katy Lewis was relieved to go to the theatre and just laugh!

With tonnes of sparkling wit and repartee from characters dressed in elegant costumes, this stylish production of Noel Coward’s Present Laughteris quite simply hugely enjoyable.

“I’m always acting,” says Coward’s lead character Garry Essendine in the play. He is, and often overacts to boot, as he juggles his romantic entanglements, with his close circle of friends and business partners.

It’s a hard part to play, to strike the right balance so that the audience can see that the character is overacting but not the actor.

In this production Rik Mayall’s Garry manages it superbly. Ever the master of the one-liner he is perfect for the role as the egotistical charmer and his posturing, preening and comic timing are a delight.

The audience clearly enjoyed this tour de force, particularly his exchanges with William Mannering as the obsessive male fan, Roland Maule, who is a fantastic young comic talent.

Their scenes together were reminiscent of some of the physical comedy that Rik has enjoyed in the past with partners such as Ade Edmondson.

Mayall was supported by an excellent cast including Caroline Harker, from a Touch of Frost, who plays his wife, and all the characters acted with just the right amount of style and poise.

They could have had a hard job with such a powerful figure at the centre of things but they worked perfectly as an ensemble. Garry could bounce off them but they remained great characters in their own right and were never subsumed by him.

With all the laughter, comings and goings through numerous doors and people hiding in various rooms, on the face of it you could be forgiven for thinking that the play was no more than a farce.

But despite appearances, Coward has also written a penetrating play that explores the nature of humanity.

It looks at to what extent we are all actors, and how we all perform differently depending on who our audience are.

In my recent interview with Rik Mayall he talks of how he loves a live audience because he can adapt his performance to what people want that night.

It just goes to show that life is just one big performance and we have to ask whether we are ever who we really think we are.

Garry IS always acting. He is flamboyant, needy and immature but essentially all his friends know what they are dealing with.

They on the other hand harbour secrets which shows that they are performing just as much as Garry in their own way.

Therefore, with impeccable comic timing from a cast who are clearly enjoying themselves, this production makes for a great night out that will have you both laughing out loud and thinking hard as well.