STAGE REVIEW: A Song at Twilight - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, March 25 to Saturday, March 30, 2019.

THIS is an absolute masterclass in every which way - with Noel Coward’s wonderfully witty and waspish script so stylishly delivered by an actor at the very top of his profession.

But this is by no means a one man show, as brilliant as the captivating Simon Callow is.

He is matched to a great degree in both performance and part by Jane Asher, and there’s quality support too from Jessica Turner and Ash Rizi in this immensely enjoyable four-hander.

Coward was at the forefront of the theatrical world in the mid-20th century, a man who could weave a rich tapestry in which his eminent wit shone through with exceptional one-liners.

This is one of his classics from his later years which has -   tucked away in a hotel on the shores of a Swiss lake - the much revered wordsmith Hugo Latymer (Simon Callow).

Held in awe by many around the world he is now in his twilight years and residing with his long-suffering German wife, Hilde (Jessica Turner), who dotes on him in spite of his moments of irascibility - particularly rude it seems to those who love and serve him.

But peace and contentment in this most idyllic of surrounds is suddenly and surprisingly turned upside-down by the reappearance of a woman from his past - Carlotta, a flame haired and equally scarlet figure stylishly played by Jane Asher.

Carlotta appears to be seeking a form of retribution or at least answers to Hugo’s actions in the intervening years through his biographical work and the apparent abandonment of an old friend. And she has in her possession ‘dirty laundry’ which she reveals she is ready to share with the outside world unless Hugo can offer some semblance of solace.

Having steadily gained pace from the outset it’s here that Coward throws into the pot what can be construed as a considerably modern twist which reveals Hugo is not only a successful man of letters but also someone struggling to cope with his own sexuality.

Continually keeping a distance between himself and those who care for him he fights his inner feelings in order to keep his perceived heterosexuality to the forefront.

Image and reputation are the key words.

Wife Hilde, after night out with friends, shows her tongue has been loosened as she manages to also loosen a few of his buttons - revealing what she has learned of the love of her life in their years together.

Damning but done with compassion.

Simon Higlett’s set of a luxury suite looking out over the lake is top drawer and cleverly adds to an impressive evening.

Definitely worth a visit just to hear classic Coward reeled off by someone we should certainly cherish as one of the stage’s leading lights.