Review of a stage play written by Noel Coward
Venue: Gielgud Theatre, London, UK
Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Noel Coward’s tantalizingly witty and decadent play Private Lives provided an amusing evening of entertainment at the Gielgud Theatre, London, where pictures displaying the original 1930 cast of Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier and Adrianne Allen adorning the walls served as a reminder of the play’s impressive lineage.
The simple stage set of two adjacent hotel balconies provided the backdrop for the first Act where a divorced couple (Amanda and Elyot) meet again five years after their divorce whilst on honeymoon with their new partners coincidentally staying in the room next door.
The interplay and subtext between the engaging and sophisticated Amanda (Anna Chancellor) and Elyot (Toby Stephens) was beguiling and poetic. As the plot unwinds, it becomes clear the very things that attracted them to each other before they were married were beginning to re-surface, prompting them to analyze the wisdom of their new relationships.
In a bid to rekindle the past, they both flee to Amanda’s flat in Paris where old anxieties and tensions re-emerge. Having tracked them down, the sudden appearance of the couple’s jilted spouses Sibyl (Anna-Louise Plowman) and Victor (Anthony Calf) adds fuel to the already smouldering fire and inspires such lines from Elyot as ‘If your husband comes anywhere near me I’ll scream’, which he camply remarks to Amanda when confronted by Victor.
Appropriately, though, the final words must go to Victor and Amanda during one of their frank exchanges of opinion when Victor says: ‘I’m glad I’m normal’, to which Amanda replies: ‘What an odd thing to be glad about… I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives’.