Sentinel Review of Present Laughter, June 7th 2022 at Stoke Repertory Theatre.
Well my darlings, not only is this play written by the fantabulous Noel Coward, but it is spectacularly directed by the also fantabulous Brian Rawlins. Brian has been a valued member of the Stoke Repertory Theatre for a long time, and he is adored by audiences for his dedication to gender equality, whether in person, or in production, and pushing the beliefs and limits of not just female characters.
The choice of this Noel Coward play just goes to show how you can take the 1940’s and catapult it into our own.
The mood lighting was very impressive and the costumes throughout showed a great eye for detail. The audience could have been there in the moment. It was utterly atmospheric.
The set was impeccable from the start. It was an all absorbing set and I just loved the window shadow, such a clever and atmospheric addition. Just ridiculous attention to detail. An incredible piece of work from the masterful stage crew of the Stoke Repertory Theatre Players. There was not an ounce of stage that wasn’t magnificently set or perfectly staged. There may have been a few moments of delay in between scene changes but this was completely forgivable by such a beautiful set, lighting display and staging.
James Freeman, who played Garry Essendine, led the production and the cast with such confidence, ability and integrity. He portrayed his character with just the perfect balance of charisma, vulnerability and arrogance.
Fred, the valet/butler, was a total hoot throughout, making the audience titter, with hopefully as much vigour as Noel Coward would have hoped.
Henry, played by Phillip Jackson, and Morris, played by Ciaran Roberts, were steadfast in their performances and provided a constant accuracy to the performance throughout.
Whether it was the Directors intention, or the writers, the women shone throughout this whole performance.
Elaine Cauldfield, playing Daphne, was fantastic in her first acting role with the Stoke Repertory Theatre. She was hilarious throughout and she should be incredibly proud of her first production with the Repertory Theatre.
Angela Bryan, who played Monica, was exceptionally sassy and provided great delivery of her dialogue throughout, providing us with some wonderfully funny one liners.
Sarah Stockdale, who played Liz, delivered a consistent and strong performance throughout and had great chemistry with her on stage ex-husband.
Elena Fox, who played Joanna, was a force to be reckoned with and commanded the stage. She was demure and confident when required, and supportive across her cast members throughout. She was a delight.
The whole of the cast were exceptional and really brightened what could have been a dull Tuesday evening, given the weather and the end to an exciting Jubilee weekend, into a thoroughly thrilling and dazzling evening. If that was the first performance, I am envious of the audience who are lucky enough to enjoy the rest of this week’s performances.