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Noel Coward‘s Private Lives tells the tale of a coincidence that transforms the lives of four sophisticated newlyweds. Set in the charming seaside resort of Deauville and later the French capital, the beauty of the scenes juxtaposes the mass chaos and frantic elements of the private lives of these 1930s aristocrats. Nobody wants to bump into their ex-lover, and certainly not when they are honeymooning with their new pursuit. Which is why it was hilarious to witness the meeting of former husband and wife, Amanda Pyrnne and Elyot Chase, on a balcony of their glamorous French resort. Played by Helen Keeley and in a stunning silver evening gown, her frantic mannerisms of pacing across the two balconies and hysterical propositions were truly the highlight of Act 1. The chemistry between actors Helen Keeley and Jack Hardwick was undeniable and enchanting to watch. A connection that was less apparent between Amanda and her new husband Victor played by Kieran Buckeridge. At one point Victor describes her as a “beautiful advertisement” seeming more a statement of lust than love. Yet the purposeful lack of allure correspondingly allowed the attraction between the former lovers to be displayed more organically.

I was sceptical that the Second Act of Private Lives would promote a mundane atmosphere. However, I was not disappointed and the fiery passion Paris is notorious for was not lost in the walls of the apartment. Dressed in pyjamas for most of the act added to the intimacy of the production, allowing the audience to see the intricacies of their somewhat toxic relationship. The continual witty bickering between the pair was joyful to watch despite the absurdity of the origins of their arguments. When the two got physically violent the reality of the dysfunctional aspects of their partnership sunk in. We could truly gain a picture of what life was like only 5 years earlier (and why it was a probably a sensible decision to divorce in the first place). But what I think Noel Coward is teaching is the notion that love is eternal, and that fate can draw us together in the most unlikely and random circumstances. Yet, we have no say in the private life of another, maybe an opinion, but never any fundamental claim to object to the choices of another. The choice of only four main characters portrays this also, where the lack of outside intrusions let only their minds flourish. Even if they happen to be the epitome of the self-indulgent folk in 1930s Britain.

We are never shown what happens to Amanda and Elyot, and the play draws to an end, following possibly my favourite scene of the whole play. The four adults awkwardly sat around a romantic little table drinking tea and still desperately trying to appear civilised, as although their meeting was inevitable, I don’t think I imagined it to be quite so comical. The unlikely kiss between Sybil and Victor took me by surprise, yet in a happy, nostalgic, way, as in the end they all got what they desired. Whether it be another shot at love or an entirely new chapter.


By Grand Young Reviewer: Colby Thompson.