PRIVATE LIVES To 20 February.


by Noel Coward.

Salisbury Playhouse To 20 February 2010.
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm (no matinee Saturday 6 Feb).
Audio-described 11 February 2.30pm & 8pm.
BSL Signed 10 February.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 01722 32033.
Review: Mark Courtice 8 February.

Classic Comedy more solid than sparkling.
Elyot and Amanda have divorced each other. Each having remarried, they end up honeymooning in adjacent rooms in Deauville’s smartest hotel. When they realise that they still love each other they run away to Paris, leaving behind their less fascinating new other-halves.

Apparently, Private Lives was written while Coward was convalescing from ‘flu. He may have stopped sneezing, but he clearly wasn’t completely full of the milk of human kindness. Elyot and Amanda are selfish monsters, emotionally retarded, expressing themselves through fluting epigrams and childish rows. Their abandoned spouses are respectively ninny and clod.

From its contrived beginning the unravelling and ravelling of marital ties include some of the classic comic moments in English theatre. Flickering with epigrams and verbal jousting, the play’s an unbeatable combination of jokes and 1930s elegance.

At Salisbury it’s delivered with worthwhile production values, and effective performances. If it’s a bit shallow, well Coward approved of superficiality (and spends a chunk of act two telling us so).

Philip Wilson’s production is carefully timed, with almost as many pauses as Pinter in the first act, where the actors establish character before ramping-up speed as the going gets more manic between Elyot and Amanda in act two. This isn’t, however, the funniest production; it’s more solid than sparkling.

Nicholas Boulton’s Elyot charms while wriggling on the hook of infatuation, and Susie Trayling’s Amanda is a suitably sharp and spiky hook. They may go on having rows for the rest of their lives, but for them a night of bickering and shallow philosophy is "cosy" – unlike poor Victor and Sybil, who each define the word in more conventional terms. Sophie Roberts and Simon Harrison do more than act as foils, investing the two with irritating gooseishness and frustrated decency, respectively.

Colin Falconer’s sets are curving, sinuous, stylish if not exactly convincing (with a balcony rail that doesn’t connect to the wall). Accents are cut-glass – as are the glasses – and when things turn physical the fights are vicious, the embraces passionate. However, in the end careful rather than careless rapture is the tone of this evening.

Elyot: Nicholas Boulton.
Victor: Simon Harrison.
Louise: Charlotte Longfield.
Sibyl: Sophie Roberts.
Amanda: Susie Trayling.

Director: Philip Wilson
Designer: Colin Falconer.
Lighting; Chris Davey.
Sound: Alex Twiselton.
Music: Paul Englishby.

2010-02-10 09:16:48

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