Present Laughter follows a few days in the life of actor Garry Essendine, a wildly successful, self-obsessed West End matinee idol, as he prepares for a theatre tour to Africa. Amid a series of farcical events, Garry has to deal with several 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 (he has just turned forty). The story was described by Coward as "a series of semi-autobiographical pyrotechnics."
Noel Coward wrote: "Present Laughter is a very light comedy and was written with the sensible object of providing me with a bravura part." He completed the script in 1939, before the outbreak of World War II but did not produce the play until 1942. Given the hero's repeated laments over his own ageing and mortality, the title can be seen as ironic. Coward acknowledged that the central character, the egocentric actor Garry Essendine, was a self-caricature Coward repeats one of his signature theatrical devices at the end of the play, where the main characters tiptoe out as the curtain falls – a device that he also used in Private Lives, Hay Fever and Blithe Spirit. The play’s title comes from a lyric in a song in Shakespeare’
Founded in Los Angeles in 2007, The New Phoenix Theatre offers chamber theatre staged readings of the great international classical theatre repertoire. Past NPT staged readings have included: Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, The Misanthrope, Tartuffe; Phaedre, Medea, Twelfth Night, Ghosts, and, most recently, The Guardsman, which was presented at The Colony Theatre in June, 2012.