Reviewed by Fran Beaton
The White Bear Theatre
Playing until 11th November 2013
This is one of the best plays I have seen for a very long time. Coward, a fictional biography of Noel Coward, deserves a transfer from the White Bear Theatre, at the back of a pub in Kennington to the West End stage. It is reminiscent of The Judas Kiss and deserves the same acclaim.
The cast of three have all the attributes of talent, beauty and youth. Josh Taylor’s portrayal of Leonard, a naive actor who is manipulated by Coward’s charm and connections, is sensational and, irrelevant though it may be, none of the audience complains when he strips down to his underwear. Jake Urry’s interpretation of Noel Coward is so plausible; the cut glass accent in particular, so recognisable from recordings, is remarkable and must have taken serious dedication to perfect. Peter Stone’s Cole has a gawkish charm and a humility that complements the other performances.
The script balances the witty and the crude perfectly. There are moments that shock, making the audience squirm with discomfort and others that are enjoyably light. Perhaps a few of the conversations on acting and writing are a tad contrived, but it is enjoyable to hear such critique of an audience when sitting in one. The allusions to Coward’s contemporaries, such as Gertrude Lawrence, add charm to the piece.
Attention to detail in the complicated staging is worth mentioning, especially considering the small space in which the actors have to contend. Each prop has been carefully thought out and nothing has been overlooked, remarkable in such a small-scale production.
If fault is to be found it is that the piece is performed as though in an end-on space, and the fact of the audience on two sides is slightly neglected. Nonetheless, since there is no trouble with acoustics, it is only minor details that are missed by certain parts of the audience.
This piece is witty, beautifully written, and performed by a young cast with dazzling futures ahead of them. They so clearly love every moment of their performance and it is a delight to watch.