I haven’t laughed that much at the theatre for a long time. Although this production turns out almost everything you expect from a Coward revival, it does have the pace, without which the dialogue often doesn’t work. This makes the fantasy setting brilliant and for the first few minutes I was sinking into this strange new world they had created.
The charm of the setting masks the vituperative humour, which builds steadily, until Gary’s final speech is turned into a nervous breakdown rather than an affected set-piece.
The scenes with Daphne are modern and fresh: Kitty Archer maintains astonishing articulation while speaking at top-speed. Andrew Scott’s speeches, where he builds to a frenzy, all got applause. He was astonishing.
It had none of the expected Englishness and charm. This means it looked and sounded very little like Coward plays do (and did) but captured the real spirit of the play much better than a traditional revival could have done.
What a haunting title. A sort-of carpe diem philosophy with undertones of melancholy. It is taken from Shakespeare:
What is love, ’tis not hereafter,Present mirth, hath present laughter:What’s to come, is still unsure.In delay there lies no plenty,Then come kiss me sweet and twenty:Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
The production lingers on that last line. The costumes from the party are Peter Pan themed. The anger about ageing is vicious rather than just vain. The final scene is a dramatic change of tone and pace, so that the play makes the characters grow up, become miserable, face the hard reality of loneliness. The original script is not so threatening. The message this production missed is that life is too important to be taken seriously.
Overall, it was excellent. I am sad the remaining performances are booked up.