Shalom Life | December 19, 2014

Shaw Festival Review Series: PRESENT LAUGHTER

YA novelist, Hermine Steinberg, reviews Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ at the Shaw Festival.

By: Hermine Steinberg

Published: May 29th, 2012 in Culture » Stage » Reviews

Shaw Festival Review Series: PRESENT LAUGHTER

Tyler Cowen wrote that with the growth of universal equality and freedom in Western society individuals who wished to gain personal power and influence were forced to “cultivate personal style as the antidote to formal democratic equality”.

Noel Coward banked his career on this premise. He was affectionately referred to as “The Master” not only because of his versatility and talent but his ability to charm – in fact, raising charm to an art in itself. Time Magazine claimed his “sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise” maintained his popularity. He was one of the most loved entertainers of his day and Noel Coward admittedly nurtured that love by carefully crafting his public persona.

In this day and age, when the cult of celebrity has produced adoring fans for people who have never accomplished anything other than becoming famous, it is difficult to hear the harsh criticism so often now levelled at Coward for the superficiality of his plays. Just as he elevated charm to a higher level, so did he create light comedies such as Present Laughter, which were meant to momentarily relieve the fear and insecurities of a nation faced with Depression and then war.

Present Laughter was written in 1939 and first performed in 1942. It was intended as escapism, pure and simple. It was considered somewhat titillating and daring in its time; amusing audiences by showing the superficiality of the lives of the wealthy, while offering them a glimpse of a privileged life to which they aspired. Surprisingly, this play that explores the trials and tribulations of the cult of celebrity is as relevant today as it was when Coward first wrote it.

Garry Essendine is the debonair and egomaniac matinee idol who is about to embark on a trip to Africa when all hell breaks loose. His uncontrollable womanizing and vanity have complicated his life to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Confronting his middle-age and feeling the growing burden of an entourage that depends on him, he finds himself in the middle of a “crisis” that threatens his self-made ‘family’ and self-indulgent lifestyle. Surrounded by determined women who all want him; a star struck young ingénue, a femme fatale who is married to his friend and business partner, and his estranged wife who remains his close friend and manager, his life spins out of control. To top it all off, he is being stalked by a crazed young man who forces his way into his apartment. Pleasant Laughter is well stocked with the witticisms, ironic comedy, and farcical situations that established Coward as one of the most significant play writes of the 20th century.

Top 50 Hottest Jewish Women of 2014 (50-41) Top 50 Hottest Jewish Women of 2014 (50-41) TrendingJonah Hill and James Franco's 'True Story' Gets First Trailer Jonah Hill and James Franco's 'True Story' Gets First Trailer TrendingBob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed Inducted Into Grammy Hall of Fame Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed Inducted Into Grammy Hall of Fame Trending
 

Top 50 Hottest Jewish Women of 2014 (40-31)

December 18, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Top 50 Hottest Jewish Women of 2014 (40-31)

Join Shalom Life in celebrating the 50 most talented, intelligent, funny, and beautiful Jewish women of the year.

Read More

Breakthrough Jew: OB O'Brien

December 18, 2014 | By Sara Torvik
Breakthrough Jew: OB O'Brien

The recent signee to Drake's OVO label is looking to put Hamilton on the rap

Read More

HBO Picks Up Sarah Silverman's Comedy Pilot

December 18, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
HBO Picks Up Sarah Silverman's Comedy Pilot

The comedian will also serve as an executive producer on the show

Read More

Sorry Guys, Theaters Will NOT Be Showing 'Team America: World Police' in Lieu of 'The Inteview'

December 18, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Sorry Guys, Theaters Will NOT Be Showing 'Team America: World Police' in Lieu of 'The Inteview'

Paramount has cancelled all theater showings of the Trey Parker & Matt Stone flick with an incredibly similar premise to that of James Franco & Seth Rogen's

Read More

Presenting the Hasidic "Shake It Off" Hanukkah Parody [VIDEO]

December 18, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Presenting the Hasidic "Shake It Off" Hanukkah Parody [VIDEO]

Appropriately titled "I'm Taking Off"

Read More

Israeli Study: Kids Start Enjoying the Misfortune of Others At Very Early Age

December 18, 2014 | By NoCamels Team
Israeli Study: Kids Start Enjoying the Misfortune of Others At Very Early Age

Study conducted by the University of Haifa found evidence of 'schadenfreude' in two-year-olds

Read More

Harvard Suspends Purchases from SodaStream after anti-Israel Pressure

December 18, 2014 | By JNS.org
Harvard Suspends Purchases from SodaStream after anti-Israel Pressure

The decision was made after two pro-Palestinian groups filed complaints

Read More

Historic Six-Day War Photo Recreated at Western Wall

December 18, 2014 | By Hen Kotes-Bar
Historic Six-Day War Photo Recreated at Western Wall

Three soldiers captured on camera just after Jerusalem's Old City was taken in 1967 return to scene some 47 years with the same photographer

Read More

More Headlines