Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Cut glass accent polishes the laughs

Game for a laugh: Tom Rees, with (left to right) Marika Farr, Louise Fulwell and Sue Downing as the ladies in his life. 

Present Laughter

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


LET'S not beat about the bush. I have just heard the finest account of an upper-class theatre accent that I have ever encountered. Louise Fulwell, as Joanna in the Noel Coward classic drawing-room comedy, is a joy of crackling accuracy.

It does not matter that she flourishes her cigarette without benefit of the holder that is usually a sine qua non on such occasions. The voice is all. It is precise perfection, usually delivered deadpan. She herself is elegance personified as a woman who can be excoriatingly candid.

This is not for a moment to suggest that she runs away with Stephen Downing's excellent production. That would take some doing, because it is so appropriately peopled with characters who are alive and special from their first appearance.

Joanna is one of the women who come moth-like to a candle flame, at a time when the infuriating Garry Essendine is beginning to tire of the charm that they find irresistible. As Garry, Tom Rees is dynamically theatrical, whatever the emotion he is expressing at any particular time. For one reason or another, there always seems to be a woman in his spare room, and it has all got a bit much. Indeed, one member of his harem remarks that she feels as though she's in a French farce – and she's sick to death of it. All of which gives the momentary sensation that we have stumbled across a play within a play.


Also well-rooted in Essendine's life are Liz (Sue Downing), the wife he has somehow never got round to divorcing, and Daphne (Marika Farr), his ever-keen groupie, if we may borrow a word of which Coward never heard. Both parts are played with panache.

The longer it goes on, the more likely it is that Garry Essendine will sink without trace. Fortunately, as his secretary Monica, Judy Bassett is usually on hand to steady an increasingly desperate ship – doing well in a role that is vital without ever claiming centre-stage.

Lynn Ravenhill (Lady Saltburn) and Jen Eglinton (Miss Erikson) are on the fringes of the fun, with Ms Eglinton exploring her character's eccentricities to come up with entertainment of her own.

Alex Forty is Fred, the household's rough-diamond butler, on surprisingly matey terms with his employer. Dan Taylor is Roland Maule, the visitor who appears fairly totally barmy, and Richard Taylor – as Joanna's husband – and David Wakeman (as Morris Dixon) offer their own contribution of well-judged exuberance.

The first night saw a glove and a brooch accidentally dropped. They were eventually retrieved deftly and without fuss. Nobody pretended they weren't there. These things happen and in this case they were dealt with appropriately. Full marks. To 18-06-11.

John Slim 

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