In Present Laughter it’s 1939 and highly successful actor Garry Essendine is preparing for a forthcoming tour to Africa but, Father Dear Father style, is beset on every side from all manner of predatory females and even his own estranged wife and amidst it all his long suffering secretary Monica is the one who is holding everything together.
Recorded from the stage of the Vaudeville Theatre, London, Present Laughter had a great opening of the cast arriving and the audience readying themselves for the performance (interestingly this is something Joan Collins also did with her series of Noel Coward playlets Tonight at 8.30). Despite the fact that the play is considered to be one of Coward’s most personal pieces of work, the whole thing is bordering on farce, made plain by the fact that most of the cast were sitcom regulars. The whole from the Stalls production (complete with intermission) gives it a very nice vibe though.
UK / BBC One / 1×147 minute episode / Broadcast 16 December 1981
Writer: Noel Coward / Stage Design: Peter Rice / Producers: John Gale (stage), Keith Williams (BBC) / Directors: Alan Strachan (stage), Rick Gardner (BBC)
DONALD SINDEN as Garry Essendine
DINAH SHERIDAN as Liz
GWEN WATFORD as Monica Reed
JULIAN FELLOWES as Roland Maule
BELINDA LANG as Daphne Stillington
ELIZABETH COUNSELL as Joanna Lyppiatt
JILL JOHNSON as Lady Saltburn
MICHAEL FLEMING as Morris Dixon
IAN GARDINER as Henry Lyppiatt
SHEILA MITCHELL as Miss Erikson
COLIN SPAULL as Fred