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Review Round-Ups

Were the laughs all present in Andrew Scott's Present Laughter?

Find out what critics thought of the Old Vic's revival

Andrew Scott as Garry Essendine and Enzo Cilenti as Joe Lyppiatt in Present Laughter
© Manuel Harlan

Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage

★★★★★

"Essendine is a suave central figure and in Matthew Warchus' illuminating and luminously funny new production, Andrew Scott plays him beautifully, teetering on the edge of high drama and pitiful depression at every moment. He is, as we've come to expect from anything with Scott behind it, a brilliant, off-beat presence, and Scott never misses an opportunity to milk one of Coward's glorious one-liners for all they are worth."

"Warchus says he has never directed a Coward before, and watching this, you'd never believe it. He has brought together a group of actors who merge impeccably, working off each other to make the script come to life. It is a wonderfully enjoyable few hours in the theatre, which, as it should, brings comedy, but also tragedy, too."


Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph

★★★★★

"From his first appearance, in fancy-dress, looking like one of Peter Pan's ‘Lost Boys', a growling hungover malcontent, the great Scott is supreme, tracing the air with lots of mime-like business, catching the musicality of the wit as he tilts between sounds faint and ironic, boomy and actorly and waspishly sardonic. He's loveable, detestable, winning, haughty. From a place of muscular vitality he winds up in near-collapse, a bundle of pained squints as he contends with those nearest and not always dearest."

"Yet when it comes down to it, the triumph lies in the old-fashioned virtue of bravura performances. They are everywhere, from Sophie Thompson as his droll, Scottish-accented secretary Monica, past Indira Varma as his coolly observant, estranged wife Liz to the formidably funny Luke Thallon as the bumptious young playwright from Uckfield. If you don't understand why Coward is hailed as a genius – and Scott as the man of the moment - here's your proof."


Ann Treneman, The Times

★★★★★

"[Scott] does not so much play the part of the vainglorious actor Garry Essendine as grasp it around the waist and do a hot-to-trot tango with it. His panache fills the entire theatre. The part feels made for him and he knows it."

"So sit back and enjoy. Warchus directs a production with an extra gender-bending twist. The plot, ludicrously over-cooked, has Essendine in the grip of a midlife crisis that results in a series of deeply shallow relationships that infuriate his agent, wife, promoters and best friends. In this production, he finds himself falling (often literally, for slapstick and pan-stick are twinned here) for men and women."


Natasha Tripney, The Stage

★★★★

"Scott is simply magnificent and makes the role his own, tempering his character's towering vanity with vulnerability. He first appears as a kind of lost boy-man, hungover and dishevelled in maroon pantaloons, staring at his hands with a mix of surprise and delight, like an infant. His comic timing is as exquisite as his pyjama trousers – all of Rob Howell's costume designs are gorgeous – and he's in his element with Coward's sparkling dialogue. He finds reservoirs of sadness and self-knowledge in this man who is always on, always acting, to some extent."

"Warchus brings nuance and pathos to a play that might so easily feel feather-light and archaic. It may well be about the fragility of the male ego, but it's a huge amount of fun – Warchus has a sure hand when it comes to farce – and, thanks to his sensitive direction and Scott's astonishingly good central performance, it's surprisingly moving too."

Andrew Scott as Garry Essendine in Present Laughter
© Manuel Harlan


Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard

★★★★★

"Director Warchus doesn't shy away from opportunities for farce. Yet he's alive to Coward's verbal dexterity. Flipping the gender of a couple of the smaller roles yields sexy results, and there are times when the dialogue feels as silky as Garry's eighteen dressing gowns."

"Strong support comes from Thompson, suitably caustic as Garry's secretary Monica, and Indira Varma as his elegant, canny and not completely estranged wife Liz. Some of the ripest scenes rely on the sure comic touch of Luke Thallon, as an earnest, manic young playwright who's excited by rejection, and Kitty Archer impresses as a social butterfly drawn to Garry's sparkle."


Patrick Marmion, The Daily Mail

★★★★

"[Scott] has a warm, excitable slightly mumsy following and he rides their adulation with unbounded relish. He serves oodles of ham early on as he sees off a female admirer: he's all gushing histrionics with wrist pressed to forehead. At other times he's sulky, sly and acid. But as the plot escalates, it's face in hands, fingers running through hair and arms flung into crucifix position."

"Coward's trademark silk dressing gowns are openly ridiculed. And if Indira Varma as Garry's wife adds Cowardian elegance and froideur in a range of stunning outfits, Sophie Thompson keeps up the show's eccentricity with a Jean Brodie-ish turn as Garry's secretary."

"But gorgeous and colourful as the supporting acting is, the show belongs to Scott. He eats it alive."

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