Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Lifting our spirits in a summer of woe

Sheridan's reworking has kept his comedy fresh in our hearts

Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play, The Rivals, which opens at the Abbey Theatre on Tuesday, promises some rich humour to lift our spirits in a summer of discontent, with politics in confusion, the weather turned against us and a sea of further troubles lying ahead.

The play was the opening of a career that embraced great theatrical success as playwright, manager and theatre owner, and a career that then went on to decorate, in an impressive way, the political stage. Sheridan's life was turbulent and ended sadly, but nothing was more glorious than its opening. Read More...

Review: Present Laughter

The Gate, Theatre, Dublin

This production of Noel Coward's play 'Present Laughter' is a lavish one, sharp and funny, with some fine individual performances. It has the good pace and timing one has come to expect from what is now a Gate Theatre speciality; the presentation of modern English comedy.

There is a brash, almost brutal side to Noel Coward and it comes out in the urbanely chilly character of the play's hero, Garry Essendine, played by Stephen Brennan. Struggling to be 52 but passing himself off as being in his late forties, Brennan is clearly too old for the part. John Kavanagh is also far too old for his part of Roland Maule, a kind of failed writer latching on to the successful star. He clowns his way through, almost as though he had walked in from another playr. Despite this, he earns much laughter. Read More...

The Bright Young Thing Still Sparkles

Noel Coward's wit lives on in the Gate's revival of 'Present Laughter'

Present Laughter is the closest one gets to autobiography in Noel Coward's plays -- though he did write two autobiographies as well, and countless comments about himself throughout his huge literary output -- yet in Garry Essendine, the hero of the play, he does come close to his own personality. The fact was emphasised when the play was eventually put on in London after a gruelling post-war tour of 28 weeks around Britain. This was at the Haymarket Theatre, in London, in April 1947. Read More...