Fringe Club Play-Reading Group in Association with The English-Speaking Union (ESU) Hong Kong.

Date: 21st May 2019 (Tuesday)

Time: 7.30pm-9.30pm

Venue: “Colette’s” 2/F, The HK Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong

The Play this time : Present Laughter by Noël Coward  

Facilitator: Julian Quail

**Certificates will be awarded for Continuous Professional Development credit

Present Laughter is a comic play written by Noël Coward. The play's title comes from a song  in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, ‘O mistress mine’, which expresses the attitude of ‘live-for-the-present-moment’ ("present mirth hath present laughter”). The plot follows a few days in the life of the successful and self-obsessed light comedy actor Garry Essendine as he prepares to travel for a touring commitment in Africa. Amid a series of events bordering on farce, Garry has to deal with women who want to seduce him, placate both his long-suffering secretary and his estranged wife, cope with a crazed young playwright, and overcome his impending mid-life crisis (since he has recently turned forty). The story was described by Coward as "a series of semi-autobiographical pyrotechnics”. Coward acknowledged that the central character, the egocentric libertine actor Garry Essendine, was a self-caricature, and deliberately based the comedy on a light-hearted self-mockery, with just a touch of serious self-censure. Having served the British government in intelligence work in the early years of the war., Coward was subsequently asked to entertain troops and civilians with his comedies, and keep morale high. Actually written before the war broke out, Present Laughter was first produced in Blackpool in September 1942, during Coward's wartime tour of Britain after returning to theatrical work.

 The play is something of a bedroom farce—rather like the French farce genre in its mix of verbal wit and physical humour—in which the self-centred Essendine is constantly pressurised by visiting admirers, an aristocratic lady whose niece has acting ambitions, and a persistent and obsessive young playwright, all of whom are claiming his attention. On impulse he decides to leave immediately to go to Africa on tour in order to escape the pressure.  His ex-wife, Liz, and secretary, Monica, are more down-to-earth and a lot less impressed by his matinée idol charms, so Essendine come to a realisation of what is better for him amidst all the flirtation and farcical ridiculousness of the situation. The recent U.K. and Broadway production (2017) received controversial and conflicting reviews, one reviewer arguing that the play is misogynistic while others pointed to the women characters as being by far the stronger and the men, by contrast, being depicted as shallow and vain. Clearly, the comedy remains popular, but is open to differing interpretations—which helps to keep the play engaging fo4 contemporary audiences.

All are welcome, although the comedy is adult and not suitable for children.

**The English-Speaking Union (ESU) Hong Kong is a registered charity under Section 88 of the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Ordinance (charity reference 91/6295) .

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