Well I have no idea what that – PRESENT LAUGHTER – was about except an opportunity for people who don’t often go to the theatre to pay up to £120 to be in the same room as Andrew Scott – the ‘hot priest from Fleabag‘ for two and a half hours.

Certainly it wasn’t the play Noël Coward would recognise – and the unspeakable overacting, again, of Sophie Thompson exerting herself with yet another ridiculous accent, this one seemingly perpetually criss-crossing the Irish Sea on a very rough ferry between Ardrossan and Belfast, and Liza Sadovy looking like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family made it beyond ridiculous.

Presumably since this is a vehicle for the considerable charms and talent of Andrew Scott, he must have had some say in the selection of the piece – a five-doored farce written in 1942 when Coward tired of the witty dialogues of his pre-war comedies, and had become interested in the works of French farceur Georges Feydeau

It’s a poor play, but a fabulous part since it’s one of the many Coward wrote for himself to perform – a successful if shallow playwright called Garry Essendine surrounded by an entourage of adoring friends and faithful retainers, behaving appallingly, spitting pithy epigrams and still being roundly admired.

Faced with this antique which could be a hard sell to contemporary audiences, director Matthew Warchus has opted to stage it as a noisome pantomime, and to up the ante for Scott fans by switching the gender of one character and the sexuality of most to the point at which Joanna, Garry’s lover once played by coolly elegant actresses in Molyneux couture has transformed into a moustachioed bruiser from Old Compton Street.

In a wife-beater vest.

Why they cast Enzo Cilenti I have no idea – presumably Russell Tovey was busy – but he’s an extremely unconvincing gay lover and fakes an accent that masks most of the decent lines.

But this meme also clouds the plot – it becomes beyond confusing to work out who is unfaithful to whom, and everybody is required to be a little bisexual. Even Joshua Hill, excellently naturalistic as manservant Fred, the only likeable character and who in the script is rutting a chorus girl named Doris, still winks lasciviously at Garry’s gentleman callers.

The interesting part of the plot, where an earnest would-be playwright called Roland Maule receives a sound lesson in playwriting is undermined because in the original he has a crush on Garry, but in this version his is the least surprising and unwarranted of overtures and mown down by the juggernaut of polyamorous activity. Pity, because Luke Thallon is spot on as Maule.

Scott acquits himself very well, though, windmilling his way through ever crazier situations, and although it’s a modern interpretation, it is entertaining.

Closest to the source material as Garry’s level headed ex-wife, Indira Varma gets to wear some splendid Joan Crawford-ish trouser outfits, but otherwise the design is facile, and the whole experience adds little to our appreciation of Coward.

until August 20 at the Old Vic, almost guaranteed to transfer if Andrew Scott has no TV projects