Private Lives: A sophisticated and witty comedy of manners
Private Lives by Noel Coward
Directed by Shane Bosher
Silo Theatre at Q
Until September 29
Noel Coward's Private Lives should really be called Private Lies, dealing as it does with the downside of relationships. It is one of his best plays, the production is one of Silo’s best efforts and it is one of the best nights out at Q so far this year.
Coward once quipped that “wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar, never spread it about like the marmalade". There was plenty of caviar with this tart, spicy and succulent production and the audience lapped it up.
In Private Lives Amanda and Elyot, previously married, are on honeymoon with their new spouses at the Hotel La Petite Mort – “the little death", which can be a metaphor for orgasm. They just happen to be in adjoining balcony suites of the hotel in the south of France.
They have told their new partners of their torrid first marriage, filled with mental cruelty, physical abuse and endless bickering. They seem to be well out of it with their new, unexciting but lovely partners.
But they meet to the tune of Just a Perfect Day and old feelings are rekindled and they embark on a new, torrid relationship.
Noel Coward plays require actors who are perfect stand-up comedians as well as being seasoned actors – and with Mia Blake, Sophie Henderson, Sam Snedden and Matt Whelan we get just that.
They all showed impeccable timing, an understanding of the nuances of the satire, the cruel jokes and the outrageous observations.
Sam Sneddon captured the already weary Victor (very little victorious there), Amanda’s new husband, with all his dullness, awkwardness and conservatism, while Sophie Henderson as the slightly duller Sibyl gets the childlike enthusiasm of a dumb Sloane Ranger (but a New Zealand version) just right.
Matt Whelan’s Elyot creates a remarkably complex character with his acting, which ranges from the incredibly tight to the nonchalant. His great strength, though, is being able to draw out all the subtly and punch of Coward’s acerbic, stylised dialogue.
Stealing the show on several occasions with her singing and hyperactive dancing is Mia Blake as the sharp-tongued, glamorous Amanda, who knows more about life than the other three put together.
The set designed by Rachael Walker has a cool sophistication with complementing stylish clothes by Charlotte Rust.
It is a comedy of manners, a farce, a tale of sexual allure and deceit, as well as dealing with the universal problems of relationships. A brilliant piece of entertainment.
But always remember Coward's admonition about the opinion of theatre critics: “I think it is so frightfully clever of them to go out night after night to the theatre and know so little about it.”