For the first in a series called The Time Travel Theatre Trip, we are all off to the Vaudeville Theatre in London, in the year 1981, to see a well-cast and entertaining Noel Coward comedy, PRESENT LAUGHTER.
As I remember, John Gale produced the show first at Greenwich Theatre, and then brought it in to the West End for a respectable run which did very good business. The casting is well-nigh perfect in my opinion. Donald Sinden is glorious in full bluster as Garry Essendine; Dinah Sheridan still beautiful and elegant, Gwen Watford always a most respected actress and solid support. And all, of course, happy to be working….
What is particularly eye-catching is that, uncredited on the external advertising, two of the lesser supporting players are omitted; Belinda Lang, still doing sterling work onstage today in 2019, and also one Julian Fellowes. I wonder what happened to him……? (NB He was a delight here as the annoying Roland Maule)
I saw this early in its Vaudeville Theatre run and soon after the BBC cameras came in and recorded it to show as a TV schedule highlight. Back in those days a West End show was occasionally a TV highlight; in the 1960s Brian Rix farces from the Whitehall were a regular Christmas TV event for some years, proving immensely popular with theatre and television audiences.
How did they shoot PRESENT LAUGHTER back then? With the limited technology of 1981, two or three consecutive performances were recorded with cameras sat in the stalls and a couple of side boxes. The best scenes from each performance were then selected to form the eventual broadcast whole.
Anyway, time to sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy going to the theatre in 1981.
Who’s got the popcorn?……..
Part One (runs 1 hour 7 mins)
INTERVAL TIME. Take 15 minutes off to pop to the loo, grab a drink or an ice cream, and get back to your seat in good time. When you are ready, it’s on to…..
Part Two (runs 1 hour 19 mins)
With acknowledgement and thanks to the show’s YouTube poster E.W.R. Many