Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wedding Cake That's Just a Little Too Rich

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wedding Cake That's Just a Little Too Rich

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

Simon Callow is at the Theatre Royal this week and there are protesters at the door, as David Whetstone reports.

People in yellow armbands were mounting a polite picket outside the Theatre Royal on the opening night of Present Laughter.

Everyone venturing inside was handed a leaflet proclaiming: "Intolerant hate show ( please stop."

No'l Coward's Present Laughter? Surely not?

Well, no. It turned out it was Jerry Springer: The Opera ( due here shortly ( that they were protesting about and perhaps unwittingly promoting.

Certainly the flyers from The Christian Institute looked as expensively produced as the show's own promotional literature.

Ironically, the play which first brought Coward fame ( and notoriety, according to a programme essay ( was called The Vortex. It was condemned as "filth" by one eminent actor-manager.

Filth is not what we associate Coward with now. The startling whiteness of the drawing room set of Present Laughter is the very opposite, its pristine paleness resembling a wedding cake or indeed a bridal gown.

The play itself is like a large and stately ocean liner of the kind that took the moneyed classes to the sun in the inter-war years.

Directed by Michael Rudman, it sails on to the modern stage rigged out with witticisms and wonderfully acerbic one-liners from another world, and a cunning scene-shifting break which had the first-night audience scurrying prematurely to the bar.

Garry Essendine is an actor of monstrous shallowness, as much in love with himself as everyone else is. "Everybody worships me," he complains. "It's nauseating."

His accustomed state is indulgence which he expects from all who serve and meet him, although he may protest otherwise.

We, of course, are meant to find his pomposity endearing and in the shape of Simon Callow, an actor more accomplished than the man he plays, it is just about possible to do so. …

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