Noel Coward’s multi-award winning Private Lives is over 70 years old and returned to the theatre in this major new touring production at the beginning of 2016.
This comedy of manners begins on the adjoining balconies of a swish hotel in France where, unbeknown to eachother, a couple who have been divorced for 5 years are honeymooning with their new spouses. When they discover that they are staying in adjacent hotel rooms they are at first horrified and try to convince their new partners to leave, before quickly realising that the love they once had for eachother still remains. Their relationship is stormy yet beautifully funny and the play centres on the chaos that ensues.
Olivier award nominated Tom Chambers (Top Hat the musical and Strictly Come Dancing winner) stars as the sarcastic and charasmatic Elyot whilst Laura Rogers (Tipping the Velvet) takes on the leading role of the eccentric and fiery Amanda. These two roles have been undertaken by the some of the best known actors in the theatre including Coward himself, the late Alan Rickman, Elizabeth Taylor and Dame Maggie Smith to name but a few. Chambers and Rogers are the perfect choices to fill their shoes, they work well together in the – what was once controversial – love scene to portray an intense relationship that bounces continously between fierce arguments and passionate reunions.
The two leads are supported brilliantly by Charlotte Ritchie (Call the Midwife, Freshmeat and Siblings) who plays sweet and innocent Sybil, who seizes her moment right at the end of Act Two when she confronts Victor and shows a rare flash of valour as she finally stands up for herself. Likewise the part of chivalrous and conventional Victor is perfectly cast as Richard Teverson (Downton Abbey) who remains a true English gentleman even in the face of adverstiy.
This state-of-the-art production of Coward’s best loved comedy features brillaint set design by Lucy Osborne with minimal changes, the only one being after the first scene as the two balconies swing back to reveal Amanda’s exquisitely decorated 1930s Art Deco flat in Paris.
Directed by Tom Attenbrough this play is well crafted and is full of wit which create pure moments of comic bliss. Whilst some might say that the play is dated one cannot argue that the portrayal of relationships is still relevant to a contemporary audience and that the humour still has the power to delight.
Coward’s masterpiece is without doubt one of the most compelling plays ever written, and audiences will not be disappointed by this revival of the show once described as ‘delightfully daring’.