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Private Lives at Mercury Theatre Colchester – Review

Private Lives at Mercury Theatre ColchesterUpon entering the Mercury auditorium, I’m struck by the simple elegance of Sara Perks’ design, complemented by Richard Godin’s lighting. Long, flowing fabrics create the balcony overlooking the French coast, offering the chance for a quick, smooth transition between Deauvillian hotel and Parisian apartment. This really helps the pace for a play that often feels like it has an early interval.

Esther Richardson’s energetic staging keeps the cast on its toes and the four main players, with the welcome addition of a hilarious Louise (Christine Absalom), thrive. Though occasionally a little shouty for my tastes, the interplaying between the two couples is well-rehearsed and makes best use of Coward’s dry, sometimes even catty, dialogue.

Pete Ashmore’s Elyot is fantastically petty, with great comic timing, whilst Olivia Onyehara revels in the melodrama of her young, but not uncultured Sybil. Robin Kingsland as Victor is the most balanced of the cast, somewhat more restrained but suitably blustery when required.

Krissi Bohn, of Coronation Street fame, drives the pace with vigour as the unpredictable Amanda, equal parts sweet and sharp. The colour-blind casting of this play doesn’t add much thematically but is interesting as a follow-up to the Mercury’s production of Clybourne Park a few weeks back as they continue to explore the dynamics between race and class through this Made in Colchester season. I would much like to see this production follow its predecessor on tour for it’s a solid production with a stellar cast.

4 stars

Review by Ben Powell

Full of razor sharp wit and sparkling dialogue, Private Lives is Noël Coward’s most popular and enduring stage comedy.

Glamorous divorcees Amanda and Elyot haven’t seen each other in years. So when they find themselves honeymooning with their new spouses at the same time at the same French hotel in adjacent suites, they can’t believe it.

20th May–4th June 2016
By Noël Coward

A Made in Colchester production
Cast includes: Pete Ashmore, Krissi Bohn, Olivia Onyehara, Robin Kingsland, Christine Absalom


2 thoughts on “Private Lives at Mercury Theatre Colchester – Review”

  1. I thought you might have mentioned the very poor attempt to produce the sound of a gramophone player? It was only just loud enough to be heard. So when Elyot shouts to TURN IT DOWN well, the line was a bit daft.
    The ‘colour blind’ casting was not perhaps what Mr Coward had in mind but in the circumstances they should have omitted the line about bones through their nose which at the performance I attended the audience was uncomfortable with.
    Finally a significant section of the first act was cut. Did you notice?

    1. I felt the sound design was fairly effective and, on the evening I saw it, did not note the gramaphone player as a problem so didn’t include it.

      Naturally, I can only speak for myself but I wonder whether people might have felt as uncomfortable about the line had the cast been entirely white. Was it only uncomfortable because it was spoken in the presence of black performers? It is, still, only a riff on the stereotypical portrayal of native Africans which the characters would likely have believed at the time regardless of race.

      I must confess I did not notice but feel that, as I felt the production was very well-paced and I’m aware that the interval is typically after the first act in most contemporary productions, it may well have been for the best of this production.

      Thanks for your response.

      Kind regards.

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