BBC Radio 7, 31 July 2010
A far-fetched tale focused around Noel Coward's highly successful engagement
at th Desert Inn, Las Vegas, in 1956 (which led to a new and lucrative career as a cabaret artist and character actor), Death
at the Desert Inn had Coward (Malcolm Sinclair) investigating the death of a chorus-girl and becoming involved in a plot
involving a would-be presidential candidate (Peter Swander) and a Jewish mafioso with the highly inappropriate moniker of
Baby-Face Puccini (William Hootkins). To be honest, the whodunit side of the tale didn't seem really significant; what was
far more interesting was Kahan's depiction of Coward's sheer professionalism, as he overcame apparently insuperable odds (a
dinner theatre audience more interested in eating, drinking and gambling than in the entertainment provided), and thereby
reestablished himself as "The Master" on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite his apparent insouciance, Coward was genuinely
concerned about his ability to fulfil the task; it was only down to sheer professionalism, coupled with a unique ability to
work an audience, that his success was achieved. More importantly, the Las Vegas experience helped Coward understand the importance
of being himself; unlike Britain, America in the mid-1950s seemed more tolerant of difference. No one expected him to tell
jokes, or conform to any particular public persona (as was the case in Britain). For this reason Coward decided to quit Britain
for good and become an expat, making his home in Jamaica and taking on character parts in Hollywood as well as British films.
The director of this new play was Ned Chaillet.