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Monday, May 6, 2019

Present Laughter (1981)

An aging and vain actor (Donald Sinden) is planning a theatrical tour of Africa. But his plans take a backseat as his wife (Dinah Sheridan), secretary (Gwen Watford), lovers (Elizabeth Counsell, Belinda Lang), friends (Ian Gardiner, Michael Fleming), crazed fans (Julian Fellowes) and servants (Colin Spaull, Sheila Mitchell) collectively turn his life upside down. Based on the 1942 play by Noel Coward and directed by Rick Gardner and Alan Strachan. This is literally a filmed play as it was filmed before a live audience during the play's 1981 West End revival. Therefore, the acting is extremely broad as the actors play to the balcony. It's one of Coward's best plays but Sinden playing a hammy actor who overacts overacts the overacting! He's not remotely human and while his performance on the stage may well work, on film it's downright grotesque. But nothing is more grotesque than Julian Fellowes' hysterical performance as a stalking fan. It's supposed to be amusing (the audience lapped it up, giving him applause several times) but again, the camera magnifies something already exaggerated into a distortion. It's a witty play properly done, I just would love to have seen it recreated in a studio.   

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