Theatre Royal Brighton | 1st – 6th February and continuing to other venues.
Private Lives | Review
Who doesn’t like the writing of Noel Coward? I love his dry wit, sarcastic humour and his wry way of looking at human behaviour making his plays as popular in 2016 as they were when they were written.
Such is the popularity that it is rare when there isn’t a play written by Coward in the West End or on tour, Blithe Spirit, Hayfever, and Relative Values are all firm favourites with professional and amateur companies but one of his most beloved plays is Private Lives.
Described as ‘an intimate comedy in three acts’ the play opens with Elyot and Sibyl on a hotel balcony in Deauville, newly married everything seems rosy until Sibyl starts questioning her new husband about his ex-wife, the beautiful Amanda. Shortly afterwards another couple appear on the adjoining balcony, also on their honeymoon, Victor and Mandy.
Yes you’ve guessed it…Mandy and Amanda are one and the same.
When Elyot and Amanda realise what’s happened, for a brief moment they are horrified and consider their partners, but it doesn’t take long for them to realise that they are still hopelessly in love and elope leaving their new spouses high and dry.
Elyot and Amanda’s love affair is certainly a case of ‘can’t live with them yet can’t live without them’, the audience are soon aware why their marriage failed in the first place. Their attraction to each other is equally balanced with their frustrations and they spend most of the middle act swinging between mad passion and violent arguments.
Written in 1930, Coward also played the role of Elyot in the original production alongside Gertrude Lawrence who he worked with on many occasions, Laurence Olivier played Sibyl’s husband and the 4th member of the cast was Adrienne Allen. With theatrical royalty such as this, Private Lives was of course a huge hit. Subsequent actors to take on the roles have been Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor cementing this play into history.
This nationwide tour stars Tom Chambers (Top Hat, White Christmas) and Laura Rogers (Tipping the Velvet) as the volatile yet star-crossed lovers with Charlotte Ritchie and Richard Teverson playing their ditched spouses.
Tom Attenborough has directed a stylish production and has much to commend it, however it relies less on Coward’s original biting script and delicious verbal derision and more on physical comedy which doesn’t entirely work for me.
Chambers and Rogers spend much of their time smooching and then shrieking at each other, interspersed by leaping around the stage, dancing an energetic routine (presumable to show off Chambers’ fine Strictly Come Dancing skills) and taking part in an intense roll-around-the-floor, full-on fight at the end of Act Two.
When Richie and Teverson come on it makes for the best scenes, their tested loyalties towards their spouses make entertaining watching and the conclusion of the play is perfectly executed and a joy to watch.
Definitely worth a punt, Private Lives is great fun and one of Noel Coward’s best – Don’t Quibble Sibyl – pop down to the Theatre Royal Brighton this week.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
Photo Credit : Shaun Webb
Private Lives is playing at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday.