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Waterfront Festival

Theatre Review: Private Lives

20 April 22 words: Becki Crossley

The Nigel Havers Theatre Company brings Noël Coward’s Private Lives to the Theatre Royal Nottingham this week, starring Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers in the role originated by Noël Coward in the original 1930 production

Simon Higlett’s set design opens the show with the creamy facade of a coastal French hotel, towering over the stage like an extravagant wedding cake. Here we meet Amanda and Elyot, a pair whose passionate but disastrous first marriage to each other has poisoned their current relationships long before they even realise that by a quirk of fate, they’re honeymooning in the rooms next door to one another.

Olivier Award-winning Patricia Hodge is every inch the headstrong Amanda, elegance with a sharp edge. Scoffing throughout at the notions of what men consider ‘proper’ for a lady of her stature, Amanda is a woman who’ll just as soon serenade you as tear you to pieces with her scathing tongue.

Nigel Havers takes on the role of Elyot, switching from charming to vicious whenever the mood strikes him. Quick to temper and ready to spit insults at a moment’s notice, Elyot’s suave gentlemanly ways are a thin veil for what’s lurking beneath.

The talented cast is completed by Amanda and Elyot’s new beaus, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Victor and Natalie Walter as Sibyl. Both blithely in love and ready for wedded bliss, Victor’s bolshy over-confidence and Sibyl’s compliant naivety make them the perfect candidates to fall for Amanda and Elyot’s facade of Nice Normal Rich People.

Olivier Award-winning Patricia Hodge is every inch the headstrong Amanda, elegance with a sharp edge

The unusually short first act performs the function of a prologue, introducing the key players and setting the scene for what’s to come. The premise sets up the inevitable, so it’s refreshing to have the predictable clash and fallout done and dusted to make way for the emotional rollercoaster of the second act.

Amanda and Elyot are very clearly two people with enough money to never have to worry about much, so willfully stir up their own drama and heartache with such relish it’s surely for fun. These two have all the brutal chemistry of two people who know exactly how to push each other's buttons, a cruel familiarity that eventually infects the people around them. Expertly played by Hodge and Havers, it’s very easy to believe you are truly watching two people embroiled in a violent love/hate relationship.

With punchlines that consistently land big laughs from the audience, Private Lives is both a classic comedy and a magnified look into the lives of those wealthy enough to have nothing else to do but torture each other.

The inaugural show for The Nigel Havers Theatre Company, Private Lives is on at the Theatre Royal Nottingham now until Saturday 23 April

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