private lives

Private Lives

Malvern Theatres


Love, jealousy, anger and insecurities are skilfully exposed in Noël Coward’s comedy of manners. Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne dissolved their stormy marriage after three years, after rows and arguments tore them both apart.

Five years later they both choose to marry other partners, but one is immediately conscious that these new relationships lack real passion and life. The cutting remarks illustrate how much they have failed to get over the loss of their former spouses and how embittered they remain.

When they travel to Deauville in France for their honeymoons, by sheer coincidence they find themselves in adjacent holiday apartments. Their initial shock is quickly dissolved into the realisation that they always loved each other and have a deep desire to recover something they jettisoned when they parted.

Coward has a brilliant and witty skill in using this set of unlikely coincidences to explore the petty jealousies of the insecure lovers on the one hand, which borders on hatred, and the passionate need for each other on the other. They love each other so much they cannot survive without each other; they hurt each other so much that they cannot live together either.

The London Classic Theatre Company touring production begins its tour in Malvern this week. It is both sad and hilarious, telling and unbelievable all at once. This production moves along at a cracking pace. The lines are delivered incredibly quickly which keeps a great sense of momentum which befits the stormy relationships which are portrayed. It also adds to the humour and comic impact and makes the pauses more poignant and dramatically effective.

The cast have been delightfully selected to provide contrasts in height, colour and character. Elyot Chase has become cynical and dry, but his passion is revived when he encounters his ex-wife so unexpectedly. Jack Hardwick plays Elyot with a slick, neat and cynical economy and yet remains clear despite the pace. Helen Keeley (Amanda Prynne) is likewise bitter and hard - ‘jagged with sophistication’ as she describes herself - her treatment of Victor her new husband is positively mean.

Meanwhile Olivia Beardsley (Sibyl Chase) is young, flighty and very insecure, incapable of comparing herself with Elyot’s former wife. Her high-pitched girly voice and feminine vulnerability expose her to Elyot’s cutting sarcasm. Kieran Buckeridge (Victor Prynne) is tall and gangly; he uses his elastic and shaking limbs to great comic effect as he loses control of his attempts to remain calm and charming.

Visually the production is lovely: the simplicity, symmetry and stylish exterior of the apartments in Deauville are very pleasing, the interior of Amanda’s flat beautifully designed without proving a distraction. The set is very elegantly lit: the evening light at one time, the morning light coming through the curtained windows are skilfully designed. The costumes are beautifully stylish as well.

This is a slick, elegant and entertaining revival of an old favourite by one of the most witty and clever playwrights of the last century. Michael Cabot has controlled the tempo beautifully and this is a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment. To 09-09-17.

Tim Crow


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