PRIVATE LIVES To 27 October.


by Noel Coward.

Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 27 October 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm no performance 20 Oct Mat 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 24, 27 Oct. 2.30pm.
Audio-described 12 Oct, 13 Oct 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.

TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 October.

Golden Coward.
Cunning Chichester. Just as the Festival Theatre’s season ends with Shakespeare’s sparring lovers Antony and Cleopatra, the Minerva opens Jonathan Kent’s account of another pair who can’t live apart yet explode when together. Noel Coward’s Elyot and Amanda elope from their second honeymoons, having fetched up on adjacent hotel balconies. Not bearing to be apart but determined not to remarry, they leave their new spouses behind and make for Amanda’s Paris flat.

The story may be a load of sollocks (a shortened ‘Solomon Isaacs’, their ‘pax’ term) but the characters and comedy are skilful. Coward’s occasional attempts to add depth and reveal truly private lives are embarrassing but while the characters are whirling socially the fun keeps flying.

Kent’s casting ensures this isn’t a two-hander with walks-ons. Maggie McCarthy is a more mature than usual Louise, the briefly-seen but pointed French maid, suggesting a lifetime of practicality behind her “ces idiots”. And the new other halves are fine contrasts. Anna-Louise Plowman’s Sybil is a screechy-voiced clinger, physically wrapping herself around Elyot, a socially upgraded Ada Figgins (the fiancée who would have kept Willy Mossop down by her dependence in Hobson’s Choice) while Anthony Calf’s Victor show himself less forceful then he’s appeared when he pulls out of a fight with Elyot.

Anna Chancellor’s Amanda would certainly have loved them to fight, returning disappointed to find not a black eye in the house. Throughout, she’s sophisticated in her sinuous movement and mobile features, someone very much in command of her feelings, putting to shame Sybil’s default reaction of turning to tears. And Toby Stephens consolidates Elyot’s self-possession increasingly. Stephens has the ability to throw in an occasional modern intonation while making it seem perfectly natural, and his straight-backed walk to the ‘phone when he thinks Amanda and he have been rumbled by the others has a sure sense of foreboding.

Anthony Ward’s set creates a rich golden stylishness for the flat, and the revolving stage allows a quick transition from Deauvillle to Paris, enabling the protagonists to be seen with their new partners, then alone together without the usual early interval.

Sibyl Chase: Anna-Louise Plowman.
Elyot Chase: Toby Stephens.
Victor Prynne: Anthony Calf.
Amanda Prynne: Anna Chancellor.
Louise: Maggie McCarthy.

Director: Jonathan Kent.
Designer: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Music: Matthew Scott.
Movement/Assistant director: Denni Sayers.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.

2012-10-07 11:01:46

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