Rufus Hound   Katherine Kingsley   Tracy-Ann Oberman

Present Laughter

By Noël Coward

Festival Theatre
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An absolute hoot



Brighton Argus

Precisely the performance a CFT summer season opener demands

Chichester Observer

Actor Garry Essendine is at the height of his fame. He’s handsome, witty, surrounded by adoring fans, and about to take his latest theatrical hit overseas. He’s also in the middle of a raging mid-life crisis.

Holed up in his studio, he is assailed from all quarters: a beautiful debutante wants to bed him, an aspiring playwright from Uckfield wants to worship him, and his own producer’s wife wants to... well, what exactly does she want? 

Under the sardonic eye of his long-suffering secretary and the unshockable gaze of his estranged but determined wife, Garry struggles to keep all the balls in the air. 

This sparkling comedy about sex, fame and the theatre itself – and a man wrestling with his own self-image – is widely regarded as Noël Coward’s most autobiographical play. 

Sean Foley’s hit West End productions include The Painkiller,Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Olivier Award for Best Comedy), The Ladykillers, The Dresser (at Chichester in 2016) and the multi award-winning The Play What I Wrote.

Actor, comedian and presenter Rufus Hound plays Garry, returning to Chichester following Neville’s Island (2013). His stage work also includes One Man, Two Guvnors and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End).

Katherine Kingsley plays Liz Essendine; last seen here in The Rehearsal and as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain, her recent West End work includes Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Monica; she played Golde in Fiddler On The Roof (Festival 2017), and her stage credits also include Boeing-Boeing and Stepping Out in the West End.

This production features the song WHY DO THE WRONG PEOPLE TRAVEL? from the musical SAIL AWAY written by Noël Coward.


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An absolute hoot. Sean Foley, has worked particularly hard at perfecting the physical comedy. Gestures are co-ordinated to corps de ballet perfection.



Brighton Argus

Rufus Hound is terrific at every turn. Alongside him, Katherine Kingsley is beautifully self-possessed as his slightly-estranged wife, enjoying the chaos piling up around him while never losing her affection for him. Similarly impressive is Tracy-Ann Oberman as his sorely-tried secretary Monica, utterly exasperated but utterly devoted. A comic tour de force.

Chichester Observer

Cast & Creatives


Cast List

Rufus Hound

Garry Essendine

Katherine Kingsley

Liz Essendine

Tracy-Ann Oberman

Monica Reed

Ben Allen

Roland Maule

Delroy Atkinson


Lucy Briggs-Owen

Joanna Lyppiatt

Lizzy Connolly

Daphne Stillington

Emilio Doorgasingh

Henry Lyppiatt

Tamzin Griffin

Miss Erikson

Carol Macready

Lady Saltburn

Richard Mylan

Morris Dixon

Creative Team

Cast List

Sean Foley


Alice Power


Mark Henderson

Lighting Designer

Ben and Max Ringham

Music and Sound

Lizzi Gee


Phil Bateman

Musical Director/Arranger (Finale)

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director

Charmian Hoare

Voice and Dialect Coach

Balisha Karra

Assistant Director



An introduction from the director, Sean Foley


Director Sean Foley introduces his latest comedy outing, Present Laughter, and discusses how this play continues to entertain.

Present Laughter is, in my view, up there with Private Lives as one of Coward’s two or three masterpieces. It is not just its line-for-line funniness, but its incredible construction. It’s like a piece of Bach. It’s a masterpiece of returning themes and scenes replayed in a slightly different way as the situation of the play advances. That really appeals to me, as I know it will to an audience.’

Having previously acted here in The Critic and I Am Shakespeare and directed The Dresser, Sean Foley returns to Chichester to lend his renowned comedy insight to this classic Coward. Sean’s previous hit West End productions include Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Olivier Award for Best Comedy), The Ladykillers and the multi award winning The Play What I Wrote.

Present Laughter is about a character who is having a mid-life crisis – and who hasn’t had one of those?! Garry Essendine is a theatrical matinee idol who has constructed for himself a very particular type of personality and through the course of the play comes to realise it doesn’t fit him anymore and he’s got to move on.’

Sean also points out that while Coward wrote the leading role of Garry for himself, the play offers brilliant comic parts for women. ‘I’d say the winner of the evening’s proceedings is Garry’s estranged wife Liz, who is this rather mysterious, very strong willed, very witty woman who is more than a match for him. And then there’s Monica, Garry’s secretary, who’s smarter than him, knows all his slightly schoolboyish ways and can deal with him brilliantly.’

Overall, Sean is confident that this play is as relevant as it has ever been and that Coward’s work remains just as funny as when it was first written. ‘Present Laughter is a play that’s stood the test of time and delighted people for 80 years. Hopefully it will be a tremendously entertaining evening in the theatre.’


Running Time
2 hours and 40 minutes including the interval