Private Lives is one of Noel Coward’s most successful and frequently performed plays, sitting somewhere between farce and social commentary it tells the story of a divorced couple who find themselves honeymooning with their new spouses in hotel rooms next door to each other.
First premiered over 85 years ago, aside from the individual performances, the repeated threats of domestic violence were at times a little unsettling and were met with gasps by some audience members and understandable so. Elyot’s (Tom Chambers) casual remarks that he would like to “cut off (his wife’s) head with a meat axe” are shocking to hear when one is not accustomed to the dialogue.
However, generational differences aside and to the cast. Tom Chambers’ Elyot is appropriately aloof and altogether horrendous in the opening balcony scene, he delivers the constant tirade of insults with a smug casualness that appall his new wife, Sibyl (Charlotte Ritchie). However, in his turbulent relationship with Amanda (Laura Rogers) he fails to be exuberant or memorable enough to distinguish himself from Amanda’s new conquest, Victor (Richard Teverson) and allow the audience to understand their magnetic attraction to each other.
As a foursome, the cast are strong and the production is generally well-paced. It perhaps struggles the most in the later moments of Act One set in Amanda’s Paris apartment where she and Elyot have escaped together. There are extended scenes of dialogue, interspersed with a little dance and song. However, for this scene to be engaging Chambers and Rogers need a more convincing chemistry. That said, Rogers’ Amanda is wonderfully obnoxious and carries herself about the stage with the wonderful arrogance that Elyot cannot decide whether he loves or abhors.
Ritchie and Teverson are very capable in their supporting roles as the jilted spouses. Having only known Ritchie from Channel 4’s very 21st century Fresh Meat in her role as Oregon, it took a little adjusting to accept her as the timid and naive Sibyl of the 1920s, however she was successful after what appeared a nervy start. This experience of the cast certainly helped her in Act Two where her final explosive row with Victor was convincingly commanding.
This Coward classic is always enjoyable in its many guises. As a whole this cast are strong and it makes for a confident production, which just lacks the spark required to really have the audience cackling when Elyot and Amanda launch into one of their numerous cat fights.
Review by Vikki Jane Vile
A major new production of Noel Coward’s best loved and multi-award winning comedy.
This glittering production of one of the greatest plays of all time, includes Olivier Award nominated TV and stage star TOM CHAMBERS (star of Top Hat the musical and Strictly Come Dancing winner) as the lovable and charming Elyot and Laura Rogers (Tipping the Velvet) as the unconventional and vivacious Amanda. Also starring Charlotte Ritchie (Call the Midwife, Fresh Meat and Siblings) and Richard Teverson (Downton Abbey).
An elegant evening of wit and glamour that bubbles with sex and promises to be a deliciously delectable and unforgettable classic.
Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd January 2016
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Monday 25th to Saturday 30th January 2016
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Monday 1st to Saturday 6th February 2016
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Monday 8th to Saturday 13th February 2016
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Monday 15th to Saturday 20th February 2106
Monday 22nd to Saturday 27th February 2016
Theatre Royal Glasgow
Monday 29th February to Saturday 5th March 2016
Princess Theatre Torquay
Monday 7th to Saturday 12th March 2016
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre