Venue : Woodrush High School
Date : November 1963
Genre : Comedy
Brittle Comedy of Coward
Wythall Dramatic Society’s “Present Laughter” is a much better achievement of Coward style than I expected.
The comedy is suitably brittle, the characterisation sound, and the pace, expect for a few lapses of memory that held things up, fairly well maintained.
Although the high standard of acting set by some players is not matched by others now of the cast seem ill at ease and, though better timing would help emphasise some of the comedy, enough comes over sufficiently well to keep the audience smiling.
Roger Mitchell is surprisingly good in the author’s original role, poseur actor Gerry Essendine, and other particularly good performances are by Estelle Shutkever (Miss Erikson), Dorothy Girling (Monica) and Jill Cobill (Daphene).
R. Keith Booth produced and the run ends tonight at the Woodrush School.
Wythall were a shade too ambitious
Wythall Dramatic Society took an ambitious step when they decided to present 'Present Laughter' by Noel Coward at Woodrush School last week. They took a step which I think was a little boo big for them, for while they met with moderate success they were not able to get the most out of the play. It was written by a professional for production of professionals, and there must be few amateur companies who have tackled it, and even less who have made a better job of it than did Wythall.
The play has many extremely funny lines which rely on split second timing to be effective, but I am afraid that when I saw it on the first night a number of these were missed by the audience through no fault of their own.
Be that as it may the company held the audience for two and a half hours with a story that was virtually non-existent. It concerns the private life of Garry Essendine (Played by Roger Mitchell) a romantic lead actor at the peak of his career, whose successful theatrical business is threatened the scheming wife of one of his business associates.
Roger Mitchell appeared completely at home playing the affected, egotistical actor who put more into his performances off stage than he did on stage. He flaunted through a big part with hardly a mistake, being by far the best in the play.
I can't help it, but I have a 'thing' about accents. Sarah Gradener, playing Liz, Garry's former wife who, although she has left him, is always at hand, took much of the enjoyment from her performance because of her accent. I was not sure if she was meant to be an American trying to lose her accent or a Briton trying to acquire the trans-Atlantic 'twang'.
Dorothy Girling who played Garry's secretary, portrayed efficiency itself in her efforts to keep his business running smoothly and to keep him guarded against the many cranks who sought audience with him.
One crank who did manage to see him was Ronald Maule (played by Bob Aldridge) who I would have called eccentric, but who Garry described as 'plain blood mad'. Bob was most successful in this part, even if some say he did rather over-do it.
A newcomer to the Society is Sybil Parr, and a very useful on she is. She was playing the part of Joanne, the alluring, seductive wife of Henry Lyppiatt one of Garry's business colleagues.
I don't think I have seen anyone get so much out of a small part as did Estelle Shutkever. She was taking the part of a housekeeper, a Swedish spiritualist, who had little to say in the play, but Estelle in her actions, movements and accent never failed to have the audience laughing.
Jill Cobill, appearing for the second time for Wythall, was charming in her rendering of Daphnie Stillington, and it was good to see Peggy Osbourne on stage again. Ted Pedvin, the producer of the last presentation, was also on stage last week, as Fred the valet.
Jack Parramore and Maurice Simpson, who completed the cast could have exploited their parts more fully.
Producer R. Keith Booth need not be ashamed of the result of his recent few months work, for the cast on the whole made a good attempt at a difficult production.