Writer: Noel Coward
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Private Lives, one of Noel Coward’s classic plays, centres around divorced couple Amanda and Elyot. They both remarry to younger partners and find themselves honeymooning in neighbouring rooms in the same hotel. The play discusses ideas around what love is and whether one can ever truly fall out of love.
Coward’s script is funny, perfectly paced and believable. It is no surprise that the play has become so popular when he has written some brilliant characters. Christopher Luscombe’s direction is good – the piece is well staged. However, some transitions between scenes, particularly in Act 1, feel a little too slow. Simon Higlett’s design is fantastic. The Act 1 set is simple but it depicts the grandeur of the hotel very well. The set for Act 2 and 3 is big and luxurious, although at times furniture can obstruct sightlines. Malcolm Ranson’s fight direction isn’t particularly strong and the physical combat in the play often feels over the top which can distract from some poignant moments.
This production boasts acting stalwarts Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge in the leading roles of Elyot and Amanda. It is an honour to see such talent perform live in our local theatres. Both giving truly outstanding performances. Havers is clearly still well loved by audiences of a certain generation. He brings the character to life brilliantly and his characterisation feels well rounded. Hodge’s characterisation is equally fully fleshed and she gets to showcase her beautiful singing voice. Her comic timing is exceptional, as audiences will be aware from her role in the BBC’s Miranda. She, alongside Havers, also delivers the more poignant moments very well, which makes the characters feel human.
Dugald Bruce-Lockhart and Natalie Walter take on the roles of Victor and Sibyl. They do a good job at keeping up with Hodge and Havers in Act 1 but then get completely side-lined in Act 2. They are brilliant in Act 3 though and get their time to shine. It is a shame that we don’t get to see (or hear much about) what they are doing during Act 2 though. At times, it can feel like Coward put so much effort in fleshing out Elyot and Amanda that he forgot to work on Victor and Sibyl to the same level. Aïcha Kossoko completes the cast as the French maid Louise. She is very funny and brings a great energy to her scenes, although she is heavily underused, not making her first appearance until Act 3.
Private Lives is a well written comedy that has definitely stood the test of time. It boasts a superb cast – make sure you take this rare opportunity to see such talented acting legends in your local theatre.
Runs until 26th February 2022