DramaNorth WestReview

Private Lives – Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Writer: Noel Coward
Director: Tom Attenborough
Reviewer: Matthew Bagnall


“I can’t help but feel this is all rather unfortunate…”

Unfortunate? Maybe. Dramatic, yet funny? Certainly. The Regent Theatre is the host for this 2016 revival of arguably Noel Coward’s most well-known romantic comedy. Private Lives is the story of questionable affection, deceit and aggression, which naturally combine to produce an utterly hilarious comedy of manners.

Sibyl and Elyot are enjoying their honeymoon in a stylish Deauville hotel… or at least they were until Elyot’s former wife, Amanda, appears on the neighbouring terrace, herself newly married to husband Victor. What follows is an absurd series of events that satirises the upper class motives of the two couples. What began with elegant class and sophistication, quickly turns into anything but as we witness the horrible mess they find themselves in during their abrupt visit to the romantic capital of Europe.

Private Lives is a cleverly structured play that combines satire and farce to provide the foundations of a highly engaging and dramatic storyline. The use of repetition and dramatic irony throughout make the writing by Coward to be highly effective. At times the tempo of the play does fluctuate and certain scenes could be longer (or shorter) to maintain thorough engagement.

The cast as a whole brings to life the farcical moments, committing to the perfect comedic timing with every movement or line that Coward would have desired. Laura Rogers as Amanda is particularly impressive in achieving this. Her ability to create many awkward situations and silences that are both uncomfortable and amusing for the audience to watch is a delight. Richard Teverson approaches the character of Victor with a uniqueness that impacts on the comedy itself. His constant agitation to the farcical drama that unfoldsand his failed insistence on using aggression to resolve matters provide many a laugh. Credit must be given to Charlotte Ritchie as Sibyl and Tom Chambers as Elyot who round off the production brilliantly.

The set is expertly detailed and designed by Lucy Osborne (as is to be expected of a commercial theatre production), but certainly impressive nevertheless. The costumes provide an eloquent representation of their upper-class lifestyles, complementing the excellent believability of the cast.

Private Lives is worth seeing alone for Coward’s deliciously intelligent writing. His ability to satirise the upper-classes is second-to- none and the cast complements the source material to make an all-round hilarious and enjoyable two hours of theatre.

Runs until: 30 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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