ComedyDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Private Lives – Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Reviewer: Jacob Bush

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

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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3 Comments

  1. We went to see Private Lives yesterday.
    It was a bitter disappointment. I don’t agree with Jacob Bush that it has stood the test of time. Not in the least has it done so in my opinion. It’s slow. It goes nowhere. It’s poor in every way and totally and utterly outdated.
    The lovely black maid was great, but hugely underutilised – poor lady.
    The main characters were OK acting-wise I suppose, but there’s nothing I feel I can add to that. The people sitting next to us agreed with my viewpoint totally.
    I saw Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge on the local news plugging their show and saying it should go to the West End!! Err, I’m afraid I don’t think that would work one little bit!
    I kept hoping something would happen to spice it up a bit, but sadly it didn’t really happen apart from one or two slightly better bits such as where there was a bit of dancing and singing.

  2. We have just come back from the performance at the Lyceum Sheffield.
    We really enjoyed it. The comedic timing was brilliant. The dance scene was excellent. If you get the chance to see it go.
    It’s Noel Coward remember so a bit hammy as it ought to be. Spot on.

  3. Just come back from the matinee performance of Private Lives today at Sheffield Lyceum and thoroughly enjoyed it! Very funny and well acted throughout by all cast members! Great timing and chemistry and some nice touches with the singing and dancing from Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge! Made for a very enjoyable Saturday afternoon!

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