by Noël Coward.
Coliseum Theatre Fairbottom Street OL1 3SW To 19 February 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mats Sat 9, 19 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-Described: 9 Feb.
BSL Signed: 10 Feb.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Review: Stoon 29 January 2010.
Growing flare in Private Lives with less than solemn vows.
Noel Coward’s 1930-penned piece is regarded as his most enduring, yet gets by on nominal narrative, relying on the eloquence of execution to generate thrills. The tale of two newlywed couples ever so slightly bumping into each other on honeymoon is barely Celebrity Wife Swap material, but that’s the swinging route this takes as Elyot, part of couple #1, was previously married to Amanda from the second couple. The pleasure’s to be had in their attempted reconciliation as they blow hot and cold with their new spouses, who conveniently find comfort with each other. But will any of it last…?
Act one is more functional than flare as the marital fuses are lit. Elyot and his new, almost bit-part wife Sybil, are too frosty to suggest they’ll last the interval in wedded bliss while feisty vixen Amanda threatens to consume soft-centred Victor before any post wedding breakfast.
Post-interval allows everyone more breathing space, and with greater reward. Elyot and Amanda enjoy a more natural chemistry and flirt and fight in equal measures as they sink back into familiarity, though by the time their volatility exceeds a critical mass we’re ready for something different.
Fortunately Robin Hereford’s production delivers its finest scene as we witness the mother of all domestics, beautifully staged and in full view of their present spouses, whose mixed reactions of disbelief and relief are wholly convincing. Sybil’s role is more meaningful and Louise, the French maid is excellent in her few moments which are not lost in translation.
The heavily contrived plot relies on pinpoint characterisation and though this isn’t always present, it’s a decent stab which avoids over-indulgence. It will be interesting to see what nearby rivals, The Royal Exchange, do with the piece as their next production, in a strange case of double-programming – whilst not an absolute challenge, this does lay a clear marker.
Sibyl: Maeve Larkin.
Victor: Christopher Naylor.
Amanda: Jackie Morrison.
Elyot: James Simmons.
Louise: Tess Alshibaya.
Director: Robin Hereford.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Thomas Weir.
Sound: Lorna Munden.
Musical Director: Howard Gray.
Fight director: Renny Krupinski.