The play begins in 1930’s Deauville, France on two sea view balconies. A divorced couple are unwittingly thrown back together upon discovering they are honeymooning with their new spouses on adjacent balconies. Elyot Chase and Amanda Prynne are the archetypal can’t live with each other, can’t live without each other couple. Jolted into the realisation that their new partners are a simpering, pale imitation of their tempestuous love, they embark on a whirlwind reconciliation to rekindle their former passion.
Compared to some productions we’ve seen recently at the Everyman, the cast is relatively unknown albeit still rather talented. Gareth Bennett-Ryan plays a rather youthful Elyot, seemingly straight out of a private boys school; his childlike petulance and temper gives him a perfectly smug, caddish air; this is a perfect complement to Helen Keeley’s glamorous and sophisticated Amanda who feels like she is considerably more mature by comparison. Her fury and passion is undeniable though and matches Elyot blow for blow, literally in some cases.
Paul Sandys and Olivia Beardsley provide the perfect foil to this tempestuous affair as Amanda’s rather more mature new husband Victor and Elyot’s young and insecure bride Sybil.
As an ensemble, they work well, bouncing off each other and building tension, which is largely thanks to Coward’s wonderfully sharp and witty dialogue.
Coward wrote his most enduring play in a mere 4 days, his first draft remaining practically unedited before it hit the stage; this perhaps explains why the razor sharp but entirely natural dialogue remains perfectly current 90 years on. There are very few contrivances and, to be honest, very little plot. It works though as Private Lives’ simplicity allows the audience to focus on the on stage relationships and building tensions.
If you are a fan of theatrical classics, this update of Private Lives is definitely worth buying a ticket. The director stays true to Coward’s original intent but injects some much needed pace to make it come alive; a lot of classics feel somewhat dated but, barring a few sexist lines, this could well have been written yesterday and left everyone was left laughing out loud, irrespective of age.
Where can you see Private Lives?
Private Lives is on at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham until Saturday 27th January 2018. It then heads off on tour around the UK until the end of April.
What’s on next at the Everyman Theatre?
Don’t miss 80’s classic, Flashdance when it storms into Cheltenham on Monday 29th January. We caught it in Oxford last year so for a sneak preview, check out our review. It’s definitely one you won’t want to miss.