By Jasper Price, First Year Theatre
This play is a must-see. Present Laughter is Dramsocs' biggest show of the year. It is clearly a labour of love from both the cast and crew. The amount of work involved in creating this piece of theatre is highly apparent as soon as the curtain is drawn.
The play follows the life of selfish, overacting prodigy, Gary Essendine, in the days leading up to his tour of Africa. The characters around him are as outrageous as he is, and the dynamics created by these characters who are constantly coming in and out of Garry’s life ensures a highly entertaining and hilarious evening.
Although this comedy play was written by Nöel Coward in 1939, the delivery of the one liners and jokes ensures that nothing falls on deaf ears to its contemporary audience. The acting is professional and wonderfully polished, the set is engaging and well utilised by the cast and the costumes are excellently detailed. I can hardly believe the show was a student production, because quite frankly, if I had seen it in the West-End I wouldn't have thought it out of place.
I cannot fault the acting, each line was delivered perfectly and there was little in the way of stumbling, which is surprising given the amount of dialogue in the play. The performances were all great, there were some particularly stand-out ones. Emma Monnickendam, who played Daphne Stillington, was the stereotypical flapper-esque lady of the time. Her tone of voice (shrill and exaggerated) had the audience in hysterics every time she opened her mouth. Joe Hewetson, who played Henry Lypiatt, was the epitome of posh. Over the top and exaggerated, his character is challenged only by Essendime himself. Hewetson’s booming voice, combined with his gestures, made his scenes highly entertaining. Lily Jones, who played Monica Reed, was brilliant at capturing the essence of her character; the seductive mistress who is able to manipulate Essendine. Jones’ voice is what made her character for me. Rich and pronounced, it oozed class. Stephen Murphy, who played Roland Maule, managed to steal every scene he was in. His manic gestures and lumbering physicality (combined with his ability to make the audience laugh at the slightest noise) made his performance exceptional.
However, the highlight performance for me had to be the lead. George Prentice, as Garry Essendine, truly shone. In every movement, gesture, facial expression and word, he brought about the character of Essendine. His delivery was on point, and he brought the gravitas needed to portray Nöel Coward’s autobiographical character. Full of charm, and yet with an annoying self-love and arrogance, you didn’t know whether to love or hate the character. His energy and movements were excellent and you didn’t get the impression you were watching a forty-year-old with all the jumping around and mad theatrics. Prentices’ rapport with the other characters was brilliant, in fact, everyone’s rapport was faultless.
What the director, Jonny Fryer, has created with this production is truly brilliant. Breathing new life into a classic and having worked rigorously with the cast, they delivered an exceptional piece of theatre that they should all be proud of. This is truly a triumph for the cast and crew of Dramsoc.
Featured Image Credit: Maddie Bentley
Have you seen Present Laughter? What did you think of Dramsoc's show?