Drew Hayden Taylor

Drew Hayden Taylor
Meet the Playwright

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winnipeg and Noel Coward, a strange combo.


I went to Winnipeg to see the Noel Coward festival. Every year the Master Playwright Festival celebrates a single author. They have done Brecht, Miller, Pinter and my all time favourite, Chekhov.

I saw three Coward plays and I learned something interesting.  

I do not like Coward.  

The tendency is for the actors to swan around and overact. The plays consisted of a lot of sniping between characters, insults fly and the heated exchange goes on and on. Usually the woman is outrageous and the man starts off as sweet reason but then becomes outrageous. In between the lengthy bursts of so-called humorous banter, the characters light cigarettes, get more drinks and swan around. A maid enters and leaves. Then the insults take flight once more.

Blythe Spirits, Hay Fever and Private Lives swam by in a nattering blur. A lot of insults were recycled from one play to the other. Few in the audience laughed. A lot of “Darlings!” (voice exaggerated and the "ar " sound spun out to the edge of stupidity) ensued. I felt draped in snippets.

The Winnipeg Free Press had described Coward as the “Jazz Age Poster Boy,” “sophisticated, urbane and ever-clever.”  My response is “so what?”

After, outside, I found the icy Winnipeg air a blessing.  In short, Coward is no longer funny, no longer relevant and should be left alone.

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