‘The strength of the play lies in its intimacy’: Noel and Gertie at New Wimbledon Studio

Noel and Gertie, on tour until the end of May, is a witty, moving and intimate study of the lifelong friendship between Noel Coward (played by Ben Stock) and his lesser known muse/possible lover/acting partner Gertrude Lawrence (played by Helen Power).

The play follows the lives of the two friends as they rise from obscurity to fame, and how they developed a bond which kept them both going till the end, interspersed with scenes from the few plays they performed together.

Some of the references were lost on me and were perhaps directed at an older generation.

However, this should by no means discourage younger people from attending — the passion will carry you regardless of a few confused moments as the actors suddenly begin acting out a different play which you don’t recognise.

The strength of the play lies in its intimacy, which is enhanced by the small venue — the New Wimbledon Studio.

The actors are constantly breaking the fourth wall to include us, the audience, in events and jokes and to invite us to experience a little bit of the intense and passionate love and friendship between Noel and Gertie.

The dialogue is peppered with Noel’s many witticisms and quips, but is balanced with the real hardships that the pair faced together and individually.

The well-sung and choreographed musical pieces, accompanied by live piano courtesy of Jonathan Lee, provide even further spark to the performance, drawing us into the chaotic, ridiculous but ultimately fabulous lives of two of the theatre’s most interesting characters, both obsessed with the stage and ‘the show’ to the last.

Noel Coward once said: ‘I like criticism so long as it is unqualified praise.’

Well Mr Coward, for this play I have only unqualified praise.

It is the perfect way to lighten up a dreary late winter evening with some showbiz and dazzle.

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