For four weeks in 1964, ITV's prestigious 'Play of the Week' slot was given over to a short series of plays by one of the most popular and beloved playwrights of the 20th century, Noel Coward. Each play featured a short introduction from Coward himself. The plays presented here are amongst the finest he wrote and feature an exceptional cast that includes Peter Wyngarde, James Bolam, Barbara Murray, Hattie Jacques and Philip Bond. All plays are produced and directed by the legendary Joan Kemp-Welch - one of the first women television directors, her name was a byword for quality, her body of work stretching from Shakespeare to Pinter, from ambitious Passion Plays to Oscar Wilde.
Present Laughter Garry Essendines (Peter Wyngarde) little indiscretions cause more than a slight upheaval in his household - particularly when everyone decides they are going to Africa with him.
Blithe Spirit Holding a seance seems like a terrific lark, but for Charles Condomine (Griffith Jones) it's something a bit more than that when the ghost of his first wife turns up to haunt him.
The Vortex Florence Lancaster (Margaret Johnston) is a neurotic woman still living in the past. She was a great beauty - and now finds pleasure in attracting younger men.
Design for Living Gilda (Jill Bennett), Otto (John Wood) and Leo (Daniel Massey) carry on a complicated three-way relationship. Entangled with first Otto and then Leo, Gilda finally marries Ernest (Richard Pearson) - but cannot dismiss "the two" from her mind.
The Art of the Drawing Room
- A Choice of Coward review by CH
The two on the first disc - Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit - are a delight, with Peter Wyngarde notable in the first one and Hattie Jacques in the second. They are well staged, and the television adaptation is fine. The very thing for a civilised winter's night. Each play is introduced by Coward, who is unduly defensive of his work when, at the time, the kitchen sink was to the fore. Time has shown, however, that there is also a place for the drawing room.