Private Lives

Lichfield Garrick Studio

***

NOËL Coward's celebrated play of 1930 is about wit, elegance and sophistication and of course laughs and this new production from Turnright Productions manages the last but is less confident with the first three.

The plot involves a divorced couple Elyot (Neil Jackson) and Amanda (Georgina Clarke) who merrily head off on honeymoon with new spouses, Sybil (Tamar Williams) and Victor (Davut-Sebastian Atterbury) only to find themselves in adjoining rooms, and balconies, in their Deauville hotel.

If that wasn't bad enough the couple find that they still love each other and always have – it is just that they can't stop fighting with each other and it quickly becomes apparent that despite five years apart and being, just, remarried – nothing has changed. So they elope – if couples married but not to each other can do that – to Amanda's flat in Paris.

They are pursued by Sybil and Victor and in a final scene roles become sort of reversed with the spurned spouses fighting like an old married couple and the old hands sneaking off like teenagers.

The plot relies on some quickfire, witty dialogue and it is easy to imagine Coward, who played Elyot in the original production crossing verbal swords with Laurence Olivier who played Victor although it is Amanda,  Gertrude Lawrence in the original, who has many of the best lines such as her view of Norfolk, “Very flat, Norfolk”, or  listening to the strains of an orchestra drifting up to the balcony, ”Extraordinary how potent cheap music is”.

INVITATION TO ROMANCE

Then in an invitation to romance: “It's too soon after dinner” and she even gives us the title with “I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives.”

Perhaps not enough is made of Coward's clever use of words and his poking of fun at the social mores and conventions of the upper classes of the late 20s with a direction, from Alex Farrell, which at times drifts more towards Ben Travers than Coward.

Jackson, as Elyot, according to his CV in the, rather expensive, programme, has plenty of comedy experience and is a regular on the circuit and at the Edinburgh Fringe with an improv comedy troupe, and in the cabaret setting of the studio he had a willing audience to play to, so we end up with an Elyot who perhaps owes more to Basil Fawlty than Noël Coward – perhaps it is ending up married to Sybil.

At times very funny, at times manic but it does tend to detract from the nuances of Coward with its verbal sparring.

Clarke provides a good foil as Amanda, delivering her classic lines with aplomb while Atterbury and Williams hold their own as the sidelined spouses in what is an amusing production. To 28-04-12.

Roger Clarke 

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