Private Lives ★★★★ Ambassadors Theatre | Aug 31 - Nov 25, 2023

Noël Coward's delicious mixture of wit and sentiment still provokes laughter and delight in this beautifully polished production directed by Christopher Luscombe. The first rate cast headed by Nigel Havers as Elyot and Patricia Hodge as Amanda manage to squeeze every nuance out of Coward's arch commentary on the pleasures and perils of lives lived passionately. As the divorced couple who accidentally meet while they are honeymooning with new partners, Havers and Hodge display virtuoso skills as they deliver Coward's intricately crafted dialogue. They also skilfully manage to communicate the barely controlled ardour that underlies their brittle interactions. Supporting these bravura portrayals, and playing the new spouses of this tempestuous pair, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Victor and Natalie Walter as Sybil also put in first rate performances. They are spot on as the conformist and unimaginative foils to the volatile duo. If there is any issue here, it is when Coward's characters move from repartee and bickering to physical abuse. The audience laughed when Amanda broke some records over Elyot's head, but gasped when he retaliated and when the amusing sniping became a physical altercation. It is rather difficult to restore the lightness of mood after this scene, and some emendation might have been in order. Taken as a whole, however, this is a stellar production with some award-worthy performances.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Tristram Kenton

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