He isn't as consummately hilarious as Dench and can't resist milking good gags. Nonetheless, Present Laughter and Hay Fever are a strikingly witty twin set and Garry - exclaiming that his own relentless theatricality may drive him mad - feels teasingly close to a self-portrait by Coward (even if homosexuality is left in the closet). Moreover, having our most famously florid actor taking this role - with photographs of Callow's own past performances lining the walls - is a delightfully knowing joke, especially when Garry's theatre chums claim they've tempered his overacting and he huffs, "Now you have gone too far!"
Perhaps Rudman could sharpen up one or two scenes, reining in Robin Pearce's cartoon acting as the insane stalker, Roland Maule, or letting us glimpse a little more dark anxiety and decadence under the surface of this 1939 light entertainment. Lysette Anthony merely strikes tiresome poses as the clique-wrecking sexual predator, Joanna. But Jessica Turner and Tilly Tremayne - as Garry's ex-wife and Monica, the unshockable PA - are terrifically crisp and fondly long-suffering.
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