Notes from a mad world unfold at the New End

PUBLISHED: 12:32 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 September 2010

John Michael Swinbank fell for the acid-tongued charm of Noel Coward when he was just 16 years old. He d been (precociously) cast as Elyot in his local drama group s version of Private Lives. It was the start of a life-long love affair, not just with Cowa

John Michael Swinbank fell for the acid-tongued charm of Noel Coward when he was just 16 years old. He'd been (precociously) cast as Elyot in his local drama group's version of Private Lives. It was the start of a life-long love affair, not just with Coward's plays, but with his music as well.

These days the actor is known as 'Australia's foremost Coward exponent' and has toured the world with shows based on the playwright.

Now he's come to Hampstead and the New End Theatre, performing Noel at Noel, a two-hour show that weaves a medley of Coward's songs with a script exploring the playwright's life and Swinbank's passion for him.

"It's almost impossible to encapsulate Noel's whole life in one show, but I do try to give as much information as I can," he says. "Noel at Noel is a lovely collection of some of Coward's most dazzlingly witty songs and his emotional, romantic tunes, like Matelot. That's a beautiful song, so different to anything else he wrote, all about a wandering sailor and the people he left behind. Often you see the side of Coward that is quite brilliant and witty, almost cynical and frivolous, almost devoid of emotion, but there are also these rich songs that are full of yearning and love."

Swinbank promises the show will be as accessible to those who only connect Coward with silk dressing gowns, as to those whose knowledge of the playwright is encyclopaedic.

"Coward's songs are fun and they're true. They reveal you're not alone, you're not going mad: the world's gone mad instead."

Noel at Noel is on at the New End Theatre until Sunday, January 25. For tickets call the box office on 0870 033 2733.


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