not a book

Not a Book: Private Lives

This week we’re back in the theatre as we had a wonderful night at Private Lives last weekend and it’s been a while since I talked about a show.

For those who have never come across Noel Coward’s comedy, it is about a divorced couple who meet each other again on their honeymoons with their new spouses. Over the course of three acts you observe their stormy relationship – and the contrast with the people they have chosen for their second attempt at matrimony. At this point I’m going to take the opportunity to quote a bit of Gaudy Night at you, because it sums up the situation nicely, although as you can see Harriet doesn’t fancy a relationship like Elyot and Amanda’s at all – and of course it would be very tiring.

Otherwise one would get the sort of couple one had in Private Lives, who rolled on the floor and hammered one another when they weren’t making love, because they (obviously) had no conventional resources. A vista of crashing boredom, either way.

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L Sayers

In the new production at the Donmar Warehouse, Elyot is played by Stephen Mangan and Amanda by Rachael Stirling and they really do go for each other when they’re not intertwined on the sofa. The physical violence between the couple is the bit that can feel the most dated (it was written in 1930) but if the chemistry between the leads is right, they can carry you through it – you believe in the rollercoaster highs and lows of their relationship. In Stephen Mangan’s hands Elyot is more of a faded charmer with a wicked sense of humour than a dashing rake and Stirling’s Amanda is a woman who is fed up with being expected to stick to the conventions. It’s darker but it’s funny and the ending is brilliant.

It’s been a decade since I last saw Private Lives – that time with Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor (which I enjoyed so much I went a second time with the family)and it’s a lot of fun to see a familiar text being polished up and exhibited afresh. The third act in particular has plenty of opportunities for interpretation. It was Him Indoors’ first time seeing any show more than once and it was fun to hear his thoughts on seeing something done differently. I think he preferred this version – I can’t decide, so maybe I should just go and see it again, again? Extraordinary how potent cheap music is…

Happy Sunday Everyone

1 thought on “Not a Book: Private Lives”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.