Present Laughter

Date 2nd November 2012
Society Ad Hoc Theatre Company
Venue Harrold Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Julie Young


Author: Enid Cooper

Noel Coward wrote this play in 1939 but it was not performed until 1942. It is a wordy witty play about a society which is ‘well bred, well spoken and well dressed’. He cast himself as the leading character Essendine, surrounded by characters that are either part of the theatrical world or those who serve that world. Once again Ad Hoc presented an interesting and colourful set with excellent stage furniture and props. This is one of the many strengths of this group. Costumes were good too, some were very good indeed! The play demands fast paced dialogue, good precise diction and timing. Julie was fortunate to have a cast who, for the most part, met these demands. There were some excellent performances. Fran Ross as Monica was utterly believable as the competent, tolerant secretary who had seen it all before. Clare Boniface, as Essendine’s ex-wife was a good contrast to Essendine and provided the commonsense practical elements. This was another confident performance. Kae Leve as the daily help provided further contrast and humour in some scene stealing performances. Amanda Goggins as the young stage struck debutante was very convincing and funny. Gill Atterwill looked wonderful as the glamorous Joanna although her diction needed to be more precise. The men in the cast also were entirely believable. Simon Alaluf was quite excellent as the wild uncontrollable playwright Roland. This was a very controlled comic performance and added much humour to the play. The part of Essendine was written for Coward. It is an enormous part which is a challenge for any actor. Essendine is an over the top character, a temperamental matinee idol who is adored by his fans and needs that adoration to survive. The character adopts different roles throughout the play – lover, affectionate boss, close friend, ex-husband, exhausted actor – he is an actor who is always acting. Rick Davis captured the character precisely. This really was a tour de force performance. In less talented hands it could have become a stereotype: Rick made the character believable and human, his performance mesmerized the audience. However, this was not a one man show; the strength of Rick’s Essendine was due in no small part to the rest of the cast, who provided the strong counterpoints for his dazzling performance. Julie ensured that the flimsy plot was well established and that the play really came alive in the third act when all the various complicated strands came together in a farcical climax. This was a very entertaining evening but the lion’s share of the praise must go to Rick Davis for his extraordinary performance. I already look forward to his next appearance on Ad Hoc’s stage with great anticipation.