Writer: Noël Coward
Director: Tom Attenborough
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
The mere sight of one another from their hotel balconies on their respective honeymoons is enough to tell the previously married Elyot and Amanda that they are still in love. Noël Coward’s brittle, bickering, perennially popular pair return in Tom Attenborough’s new production of Private Lives, but does it still charm a modern audience?
Famously written in three days in 1930 and premiered at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh the same year, any new production has to tread carefully to prevent Coward’s venomous barbs from slipping into parody. Attenborough’s production doesn’t deviate from the well-trodden path of his predecessors, this is very much a traditional production and at an economical two hours including interval, you’ll be out in time for the last train home.
Tom Chambers (Elyot) has recently been making a successful career out of playing louche lotharios from the 20s and 30s, and indeed, his talents are fully exploited here. The former Strictly Come Dancing and Top Hat star gets an opportunity to show some nifty dance moves as well as his singing and piano playing skills in a medley of Coward classics. Chambers’ Elyot isn’t as fully-fleshed-out as one would want it to be and some of the pithiest and wittiest lines are thrown away in his delivery. This is not a duel of equals as Coward intended it to be, Laura Rogers’ Amanda is a far more feisty foe than her former spouse. That said his performance is both engaging and entertaining. Indeed, his entry alone prompts applause from the appreciative audience and there are murmurs of anticipation before each of these oft-quoted lines.
In support Charlotte Ritchie as second spouse Sybil and Richard Teverson as ‘rampaging gasbag’ Victor have little to do, but what they do, they do well.
Attenborough’s production offers nothing new and may not be as ‘jagged with sophistication’ as it could be, but Coward’s wonderful words retain their ability to amuse and entertain over 80 years after they were written.
Runs until 27 February 2016 | Image: Alasdair Muir