Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Private Lives by Noel Coward, Hampsted Theatre, 26-Jan_2009 - Directed by Lucy Bailey

The worry I always have with Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde's plays is that an idiot director might decide to delve too into whichever play they are doing, in an attempt to unearth a non-existent dark-side to the piece. I have seen this done and it has never been pretty. I'm not going to deny that there are deeper messages or meanings in the plays of these dramatists but I don't think they work properly unless they are played at the surface and kept apparently frivolous.
Fortunately Lucy Bailey allowed the audience plenty of laughter as well as some moments when I had to dab a little moisture from my eye.
I was not sure that Jasper Britton's Elyot and Claire Price's Amanda had sufficiently upper crust accents but it probably would have made them sound like bad, stereotypical Noel Coward impressions. Although I missed the clipped and rather frosty delivery that I normally would have wanted, instead I got something that felt more realistic and thought I could feel the love between Elyot and Amanda more.
A major departure from other productions that I seen was Amanda's Paris flat. Normally this is a chic abode with Bedroom, bathroom and kitchen leading off from the the living room where all the second half's action takes place. In this production it was a studio flat in a slope-roofed attic. The kitchen was hardly divided from the main area, causing some awkwardness as the maid (Jules Melvin)had to be seen to be doing something when she was there. The bathroom looked too small to actually have a bath in it and the only other room (where Elyot retires) was a box room or walk-in cupboard. The main area consisted of a grand piano and a bed. This arrangement had a certain logic to it but it did seem to present a few minor problems for actors who would normally have been hidden from view.
I didn't find myself having any sympathy for the characters of Sibyl and Victor and I don't suppose I was meant to, although I have felt a bit sorry for them in other productions.



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