Private Lives

Michael Buffong’s take on this comedy of manners is brilliant and sophisticated.

By Manchester's Finest | April 3rd '11

Where: St Ann’s Square Manchester, M2 7DH – 0161 833 9833

When: 23 February 11 – 09 April 11

Website: www.royalexchangetheatre.org.uk

What: Think…HAY FEVER meets WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF

Witty, smart and relevant- three words you wouldn’t use to describe a play about two ‘prim and proper’ couples, originally written back in the 1930’s. Yet it’s exactly how to describe the latest revival of Noel Coward’s fast paced play ‘Private Lives’.

Michael Buffong’s take on this comedy of manners is brilliant and sophisticated. His direction has managed to bring a very traditional play to a modern audience with great style and finesse.

The story centers on Elyot and Amanda who are a divorced couple. Five years on, they encounter each other when they are both honeymooning with their new spouses Sybil and Victor in France. Reunited again, only reminds both Elyot and Amanda of their desire and love for one another and so they decide to abandon their new marriages with Sybil and Victor and run away to the City of Amore, Paris.

Hidden away in Paris, their rekindled relationship hits troubled water and the play questions the idea of lust, romance and lasting love.

Although it challenges the idea of marriage, this is essentially a comedy and Buffong keeps this element at the centre of his play. Noel Coward originally wrote the play in four days and this speed is noticeable in both the dialogue and action. The physically comedy and quick one-liners make this piece a must see.

This season, The Royal Exchange has excelled with its celebrated cast of actors; Elyot (Simon Robson) and Amanda (Imogen Stubbs) excel and their onstage witty retorts and chemistry is exactly right. They both have great timing and skill and they communicate Coward’s witty lines brilliantly.

With support from Victor (Clive Hayward) and silly, naive Sibyl (Joanna Page) who are amazing, in particular Joanna Page who originally captured the nation’s attention playing Stacey from the Welsh comedy ‘Gavin and Stacey’. Yet her portrayal of Sibyl shows that she is not just a one trick pony.  ‘Private Lives’ is a classic play and this is a classic revival, so catch it while you can.

 

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