Present Laughter at the Old Vic: First look at Andrew Scott's return to the London stage

Andrew Scott is glorious in this revival of Noël Coward’s chaotic Thirties caper. He’s suave but also wickedly scathing as matinee idol Garry Essendine, a ruthless charmer who’s desperate to persuade himself that he isn’t slipping into middle age.Garry is every inch an actor even when he’s not meant to be performing. Part peacock, part needy bohemian, he’s a magnet for trouble, and the heady business of juggling his admirers — some sophisticated, others alarmingly amorous — soon causes his personal and professional lives to unravel.The play is flimsy, and productions often try to compensate for this with a rather laboured, shouty outrageousness that has the unintended effect of exposing the writing’s weaker moments. But here it’s realised with panache and a rich sense of mischief.Director Matthew Warchus doesn’t shy away from opportunities for farce. Yet he’s alive to Coward’s verbal dexterity. Flipping the gender of a couple of the smaller roles yields sexy results, and there are times when the dialogue feels as silky as Garry’s eighteen dressing gowns. Strong support comes from Sophie Thompson, suitably caustic as Garry’s secretary Monica, and Indira Varma as his elegant, canny and not completely estranged wife Liz. Some of the ripest scenes rely on the sure comic touch of Luke Thallon, as an earnest, manic young playwright who’s excited by rejection, and Kitty Archer impresses as a social butterfly drawn to Garry’s sparkle.But this is Andrew Scott’s show, and he gives a virtuoso performance. It’s a fascinatingly detailed interpretation of a character who’s flirtatious, stroppy and acerbic yet also drowning in melancholy. Scott achieves something genuinely audacious in making him both odious and adorable. Until Aug 10 (0844 871 7628,

The first pictures have been revealed of Andrew Scott's return to the stage for Present Laughter at the Old Vic.

The Sherlock and Fleabag actor is appearing on stage alongside Indira Varma, Sophie Thompson and Abdul Salis in Noёl Coward’s semi-autobiographical play, which opens on June 25.

Old Vic artistic director Matthew Warchus is directing the play, which is a reflection on fame, desire and loneliness.

Coward’s comedy follows the colourful life of actor Garry Essendine, who is in the midst of an identity crisis and at risk out spiralling out of control. As Garry prepares to set sail for an overseas tour, the last few days at home are filled with panic, sex and soul-searching.

The cast is completed by Nicole Agada, Kitty Archer, Enzo Cilenti, Joshua Hill, Dan Krikler, Liza Sadovy, Nada Sharp, Luke Thallon and Suzie Toase, with design by Rob Howell, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Simon Baker.

Scott last appeared on the Old Vic stage in solo show Sea Wall, a role written for him ten years ago by Simon Stephens, as part of the theatre’s 200th anniversary celebrations in 2018.

He is best known in theatre for his portrayal of Hamlet at the Almeida in 2017, which received rave reviews from critics and transferred to the West End before being broadcast on the BBC.

Present Laughter runs from June 25-August 10,

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