by Noel Coward
Nottingham Playhouse Wellington Circus NG1 5AF To 22 October 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 15 October 2.30pm, 13 & 20 October 1.30pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0115 9419419.
Review: Jen Mitchell 11 October.
A superb evening of acerbic wit and sophisticated banter.
Private Lives is arguably Noel Coward’s most finely-crafted piece and director Giles Croft more than does it justice.
The opening scene, on a Deauville hotel balcony, is hilariously uncomfortable as ever. Sybil (Victoria Yeates) relentlessly questions Elyot about his first wife, the glamorous Amanda, on the first evening of their honeymoon. Her desire to torture herself with unwanted knowledge, like the couple’s stilted and awkward demeanour, is a symptom of their lack of familiarity.
The arrival next door of Elyot’s ex-wife with her new spouse can only cause trouble. But not the sort of trouble one would imagine from listening to each ex-spouse talk about the other one. Passion is re-kindled by a chance meeting on the veranda.
By when, Sibyl has become so annoying that almost anyone would have run away from her. Especially when Janie Dee’s gorgeous, glamorous Amanda positively smoulders from the first, brimming with spontaneity and life, while second husband Victor is her antithesis.
The chemistry between Amanda and Elyot is palpable. Wickham brings a real sense of menace and violence to the role, but his sophisticated charm and wit prove so timely, sophisticated and elaborately cutting that we could forgive everything.
The couple make the elopement to the Paris flat look enormous fun but under the spotlight of the enforced quarantine the cracks begin to show and the love-hate relationship is resumed with a passion. With lots of passion. The fight scene in the second act is beautifully choreographed, both parties giving as good as they get. Despite Elyot’s sudden verbal outbursts and declaration that “women should be beaten regularly, like gongs,” there is never a sense he is more in control than Amanda.
Poor old Victor Prynne; cuckolded and rejected. Marcus Hutton plays a marvellously stuffy, safe and conformist English gent who would like nothing better than to go home and have a cup of cocoa.
Dawn Allsopp’s beautiful sets add to the elegance of the piece, as do the faithfully reproduced period costumes. The four main characters are vividly drawn and perfectly executed. This production has all the ingredients of a roaring success.
Amanda Prynne: Janie Dee.
Victor Prynne: Marcus Hutton.
Louise: Debra Stewart.
Elyot Chase: Rupert Wickham.
Sibyl Chase: Victoria Yeates.
Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Alexander Stafford.
Sound: Drew Baumohl.
Musical Director: Stefan Bednarczyk.
Choreographer: Adele Parry
Fight director: Terry King.