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Present Laughter (1981)

An aging and self-obsessed actor finds himself in a situation bordering on farce when he is besieged by the demands of his estranged wife, women who want to seduce him, and a crazed playwright.


(as Noel Coward)


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Cast overview:
Garry Essendine
Liz Essendine
Monica Reed
Elizabeth Counsell ...
Joanna Lyppiatt
Roland Maule
Belinda Lang ...
Daphne Stillington
Sheila Mitchell ...
Miss Erikson
Ian Gardiner ...
Henry Lyppiatt
Michael Fleming ...
Morris Dixon
Jill Johnson ...
Lady Saltburn


In the weeks leading up to his departure for a tour in Africa, successful light-comedy actor Garry Essendine finds himself embroiled in one farcical situation after another. A smitten débutante, Daphne Stillington, has wheedled her way into his guest bedroom. Meanwhile, Garry's long-suffering secretary, Monica, has arranged a meeting with crazed-playwright Roland Maule. Furthermore, Liz, Garry's estranged wife, demands his aid in her attempts to arrange the personal lives of Garry's manager Morris, his producer Henry, and Henry's alluring wife, Joanna. Written by L. Hamre

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Comedy | Romance





Release Date:

16 December 1981 (UK)  »

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Version of Present Laughter (1965) See more »

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part of the Noel Coward Collection
20 July 2017 | by See all my reviews

This is a taped live performance of Present Laughter, by Noel Coward, a 1981 production.

Here the role of Garry Essendine is played by Donald Sinden. Noel Coward, of course, wrote it for himself and starred in it, but other Garrys have included Clifton Webb, George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Nathan Lane, Peter O'Toole, Simon Callow, Ian McKellen, and most recently on Broadway, Kevin Kline, to mention just a few.

The story concerns a famous theatre star (who seems to be acting all the time), Garry Essendine (Sinden). While planning a tour of a play in Africa, he has dalliances with a debutante and his producer's wife, meets with an insane playwright, deals with his secretary's demands as well as those of his ex-wife.

It's chaotic, with people hiding in the spare room, the playwright continuing to show up, the incessant phone calls, the maid wandering through the house, the women -- it's a circus.

Present Laughter is semiautobiographical, farcical, and quite fun with marvelous performances. Essendine is a John Barrymore in Twentieth Century type, overblown, vain, with an ego the size of California, who lies about his age, constantly changes dressing gowns, has "woe is me" monologues, and at one point falls to the floor and begs his ex-wife to lift his head and give him a drink. Sinden plays the role with great abandon, as the character is always "on," always performing, and yet underneath it all is childlike, lonely, and lovable.

While it may seem over the top, that's the style. Very enjoyable.

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