Private Lives

“A delightful theatrical production”.

"Noël Coward's Private Lives" is a delightful theatrical production that captivates the audience from the very start. The set design welcomes us with the charming exterior of a seaside apartment, complete with a spacious balcony patio area. We see two rooms sit side by side, setting the stage for the unfolding drama.

From the moment the characters begin their dialogue, a sense of anticipation fills the theatre. The audience quickly becomes engrossed in the unfolding story, as it becomes clear what comedy lies ahead.

The play revolves around a divorced couple and their new partners, resulting in a comedic spectacle that occasionally teeters on the edge of farce. Nigel Havers embodies the character of Elyot, exuding suavity and sophistication while occasionally succumbing to boyish outbursts. Patricia Hodge, in her role as Amanda, portrays an alluring and outspoken character, demonstrating a dominant assertive side, especially notable for the time in which the play is set.

The director, Christopher Luscombe, has paid meticulous attention to detail in this production. Countless small yet delightful and comedic moments fill the performance, enhancing the overall experience. For instance, there's a charming scene where Amanda spots Elyot, uses a pocket mirror to double-check it is him, then exits, only to return dramatically. Another highlight is when Amanda and Elyot, as a couple, watch their new partners, portrayed by Natalie Walter and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, engage in an argument. In perfect unison, they cross their legs, sink into their chairs, and observe the dispute unfold like spectators at an awkward tennis match. These nonverbal, unscripted moments add immeasurable joy to the production, showcasing the actors' mastery of their roles.

The play itself is outstanding, with a witty script that occasionally incorporates lesser-known words, like 'crinoline.' While some may not be familiar with such terms, the context in which they are used makes their meaning very clear. For this example there was much laughter from the audience, even from those who may not be not have known what the word was.

In summary, "Private Lives" by Noël Coward is a theatrical gem that combines humour, romance, and exceptional performances. Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge shine in their roles, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters. Christopher Luscombe's meticulous direction, filled with nuanced details and clever staging, elevates the production to a delightful and unforgettable experience. While some of the language may be less familiar to contemporary audiences, the wit and charm of the play shine through, leaving the audience thoroughly entertained.

This show was reviewed on the 13th September.  Private Lives runs at the Ambassadors Theatre until the 25th November 2023.  Tickets available here: Private Lives | Official Box Office | Ambassadors Theatre (theambassadorstheatre.co.uk)

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides

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Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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