Published On: Thu, Sep 14th, 2023
Entertainment | 2,275 views

‘Civilised farce has creaky charm’ – Private Lives review | Theatre | Entertainment

As Amanda and Elyot, the divorced couple who encounter each other on their respective honeymoons and abandon their new spouses, they are seamlessly enfolded into their roles.

Unlike the recent ultra-violent Donmar production with Stephen Mangan, this is a more civilised affair altogether.

Christopher Luscombe’s unobtrusive direction allows breathing space for the actors (also including Natalie Walter’s gleefully naive Sibyl and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s stuffed shirt Victor) to deliver Coward’s pithy dialogue with cavalier grace.

The first half, set on adjoining balconies of a frost pink Normandy hotel where Amanda first sees ex-husband Elyot in her compact mirror, is a lightfingered farce of conspicuously unlikely coincidence.

The second act, set in Amanda’s glamorous Paris apartment, is beautifully contrasted in the blood red and gold Deco design, reflecting the languid decadence and impetuous passion of their relationship.

However, the energy dips slightly here and the action could do with tightening up a little, especially given the two-minute silences the irrepressible couple impose on themselves whenever arguments threaten.

But the sudden arrival of their jilted, notably younger, spouses kicks things up a notch.

Havers and Hodge may not be in the first flush of youth, but the inclusion of cricked necks and dodgy knees, plus Coward’s mischievous lines, give them ample opportunity for self-reflective humour.

“Come and kiss me, darling, before your body rots,” says Elyot before a well-choreographed fight – which ends with Amanda banging his face on the piano keyboard.

Conventional and a little creaky it may be, but crowd-pleasing it remains. Tickets available on 03330 096 69

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