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Publisher's Summary

Noël Coward on theatre was as dazzling and entertaining as his masterful plays and lyrics. Here his ideas and opinions on the subject are brilliantly brought together in an extraordinary collection of commentary, lyrics, essays, and asides on everything having to do with the theatre and Coward's dazzling life in it.

The book Noël Coward wanted, promised, threatened to write - and never did.

Including essays, interviews, diary entries, verse, his views on his fellow playwrights: "My Colleague Will", Shaw, Wilde, Chekhov, Barrie, Maugham, Eliot, Osborne, Albee, Beckett, Miller, Williams, Rattigan, Pinter, and Shaffer.

Coward on the critics - many of whom irritated him over the years but came to admire him: James Agate, Alexander Woollcott, Graham Greene, Kenneth Tynan among them.

And on the plays he wrote, among them: The Vortex; Hay Fever; Private Lives; Design For Living; Blithe Spirit.

Here is the Master on the producers who crossed his path: André Charlot, C. B. Cochran, Binkie Beaumont. And the actors in the Coward galaxy: John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Gertrude Lawrence, the Lunts, etc....

His views on the art of acting: auditions, rehearsals, learning the lines, clarity of delivery, timing, control, range, stage fright, fans, theater audiences, revivals, comedy, "the Method", plays with a "message", taste, construction, "Star Quality", etc....

And last, but Noël Coward least, his experience in, and thoughts on: revue, cabaret, television, and musical theater, Bitter Sweet, Conversation Piece, Pacific 1860, After the Ball, Ace of Clubs, Sail Away, The Girl Who Came to Supper, Words and Music, This Year of Grace, London Calling!...and much more.

Ingeniously, deftly compiled, edited, and annotated by Barry Day, Coward authority and editor of The Noёl Coward Reader and The Letters of Noёl Coward.

Cover photograph: © 2021 The Estate of Edward Steichen / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

©2021 Noel Coward and Barry Day (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“An illuminating collection of anecdotes, encomiums, and gripes.... Theater fans will savor this portrait of a confident artist ('I am probably the best comedian alive') whose wit wasn’t confined to the stage.... An entertaining peek behind the curtain at 60 years in the theater.” (Kirkus)

“Sparkling...Day’s selections showcase Coward’s dazzling prose, which is always lively, urbane, and stocked with well-aimed zingers.... Theater pros and fans alike will revel in Coward’s incisive, compulsively readable takes on showbiz.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[Coward’s] dual role — equal parts revolutionary and reactionary — is handsomely illuminated in Barry Day’s Noël Coward on (and in) Theatre.... Throughout, he addresses his subject with clear-eyed affection...compelling...a many-pieced mosaic of a man of many pieces.” (Brad Leithauser, Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about Noël Coward on (and in) Theatre

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  • Mr David Cartwright
  • 11-03-21

Poorly Read

My Uncle who is in hospital with Covid 19 and has been on an aspirator until recently is a more animated talker than this reader - very poor and lazy performance

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  • D. Baker
  • 01-10-22

Great book, listen at 1.2x for better experience

A really great collection of writing and work by Noel Coward - gathered and annotated / commented on expertly by Barry Day.

I note that Barry Day is 87, so it seems unfair to criticise - but his narration at regular speed is not good. As noted by other reiewers, advice is to set it to play at 1.2x speed for a much enhanced experience. Also, his co-narrator's work sounds much more clipped and Coward-like when played at 1.2 or 1.1 speed.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-09-22

Listen at the speed of 1.20

Apart from sporadic repetitions, the text is excellent and well worth listening to. I learnt much from the book not only about Noel Coward's thoughts, but also about the intricacies of theatre production.
However, Mr Day's reading is, to put it mildly, insufferably slow. As I didn't want to give up, I set the speed to x1.20, and couldn't shake off the feeling that it was the original recording speed for Mr Day's parts; it sounded much more natural. It does slightly affect Mr Iwuji's performance, but it's more bearable than the original. If you're interested in the matter, I suggest you speed it up and you'll find the whole experience quite enjoyable.