★★★★ | Private Lives

If you’re not familiar with Noel Coward’s work then you’re in for a treat with ‘Private Lives’ and the lavish new production at The Gielgud is well worth catching.

Elyot Chase (Toby Stephens: Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) is on his honeymoon in France when he finds that his ex-wife, Amanda (Anna Chancellor: The Hours, Spooks) is in the adjacent hotel room and is also on her honeymoon. Still reeling from their tempestuous failed marriage the pair revisit the havoc that ensued previously.

Beautiful, stylish and utterly selfish, they are witty, snide socialites. Coward’s dialogue is acerbic, devastatingly vicious and alarmingly witty. The two leads capture the spirit of the play perfectly, with dialogue that feels like a deliciously deadly fencing match. They lunge, parry and attack with rapier sharp put downs and impeccable comic timing. Chancellor is monumental in a series of stylish costumes, looking like she’s stepped straight off the pages of a book of Erte illustrations whilst Stephens captures the louche selfishness, suave posturing and petulant impishness of Elyot perfectly. Chancellor in particular makes the play her own with a seemingly effortless performance that conveys the nuances of Amanda’s character with serious style.

The set is stunning and Amanda’s apartment in Paris is a visual feast of Art Deco styling. I could have sat in my seat and quite happily stared at the set for an hour but luckily there was much more to see.

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An interesting aside is that Toby Stephen’s wife, actress Anna-Louise Plowman, plays his new wife, Sybil. Added to this, Stephen’s parents, Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, played the parts of Elyot and Amanda in the same theatre in 1973.

Highly recommended for those who like their comedy with lashings of clipped tones and sharp witticisms. The audience loved the show and so did I.

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Catch Private Lives at The Gielgud Theatre until 21st of September 2013
Buy tickets here:

About the author: Chris Bridges
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He's usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.