Noël Coward’s Marvellous Party
The Noël Coward Foundation
To commemorate the centenary of I’ll Leave It to You, his first-ever West End production, a group of the great and the good have joined up to create this streamed celebration of Noël Coward’s work.
There is a very worthwhile ulterior motive as Stephen Fry explains, since the production is supporting The Noël Coward Foundation and benefiting theatre workers on both sides of the Atlantic via Acting for Others (UK) and The Actors Fund (US).
Where in normal times the actors would have enjoyed themselves in front of a packed audience, instead they are performing from their homes or either the Theatre Royal Haymarket or Chichester Festival Theatre.
Remarkably little of the material is familiar. The evening opens with an animated rendition by Cush Jumbo of a brief, witty poem, “I’ve Got to Go out and Be Social”. In a similar vein, Indira Varma presented “I’m No Good at Love”. That actress gets a second moment in the limelight, delivering a hilarious, pitch perfect portrait of the archetypal groupie, “Social Grace”.
Sir Derek Jacobi entertains with an autobiographical verse about the actor’s first steps in the theatre, accompanied by evocative photographs.
There is only a single play extract and that far from the most obvious choice, which is refreshing. It helps that Lia Williams and Joshua James work together beautifully as mother and son in a delightful extract from The Vortex.
Inevitably, there are odd tributes to “The Master” expanded to include, in the case of Dame Judi Dench, his aftershave.
The wittiest song is “Why Do the Wrong People Travel?” sung by Bebe Neuwirth.
Alan Cumming does a nice job with a short story excerpt from Me and the Girls about a woman who may will be terminally ill, which makes you want to read the whole thing, a compliment to both writer and actor.
All builds to a joyous party piece: Patricia Routledge singing “I Went to a Marvellous Party”, which is one of the undoubted highlights of the evening.
Throughout, Robert Lindsay delivers short aperçus, many of which are close to Wildean aphorisms.
The production is lovingly directed by Robert Gill, offering variety and complementing the party pieces with vintage photographs and what looked like home movies bringing to life the great man.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher