The opening scene introduces Sibyl (Ritchie) and Elyot (Chambers), and it becomes quickly apparent that these are not your average newlyweds. She – the neurotic bride, eager for validation, and He – the sophisticated, slightly distant groom. The energy soon increases with the arrival of the quintessentially British Victor (Teverson) and his new wife Amanda (Rogers). The comedy is well delivered through clever timing and physicality, and allows the actors to show off their skills. There is a fantastic mixture of deadpan antiquated tetchiness from Teverson, rauchiness from Rogers, emotional ruffles from Ritchie and cheeky charm from Chambers.
The first half sees an impressive set change which is very smoothly executed, and the actors certainly make the most of the stage space. It is worth noting that there are two acts during the first half and one during the second, which therefore means the first is substantially longer. Possibly some of the ‘lovey’ declarations were a little on the repetitive side (especially for someone lacking my tolerance for the sloppy stuff), although seemingly this is what Coward had in mind to represent the nature of the relationship between Elyot and Amanda. There was a little dip in energy towards the end of act two, but this was startlingly revived before interval! The second half is substantially shorter, but draws the audience in as relationships recover and fall apart in the blink of an eye. Given the size of the cast it is commendable that the actors maintain such animated performances, reaching an impressive crescendo in the final moments of the play.
Despite being written several decades ago, Private Lives has transferred well to modern day. The subject matter of relationships is one that fascinates us all (and in fact some of the plays content wouldn’t be entirely out of place on the Jeremy Kyle Show!) and I found myself able to sympathise with the plight of the characters. The star of the show for me has to be Teverson, who embodied the archaic yet kindly nature of Victor with an underlying conviction throughout. If you enjoy a play that is thought provoking, risque and a little tongue in cheek then Private Lives is for you.