French Riviera, 1930. Quintessentially stylish divorcées, Elyot and Amanda are honeymooning with their new and much younger spouses. When they find themselves inexplicably on adjacent Hotel balconies, they quickly realise the awful yet beautiful truth. They both still love each other and regret their divorce.
Facing up to their true feelings, the starry-eyed pair hatch a plan to escape their honeymoon hotel and mismatched partners. However, having relocated to Amanda’s secluded Parisian flat, reality begins to bite. The pair begin to bicker. And fight. It’s a repeat performance of their first, disastrous marriage.
They can’t live with each other. They can’t live without each other.
Only when Amanda and Elyot are discovered by their jilted spouses, do the foursome finally figure out who is best suited to whom.
Fast-paced, witty, and passionate, Noël Coward’s comedy is a delightful, romantic comedy of manners. Packed with pace and Coward’s signature, stinging repartee, Private Lives is his greatest - Tony and Olivier award-winning - success.
Post Show Talk:
Thur 24 June, after the matinée
Thur 2 September, 6.00pm (book by phoning 01796 484626)
Fri 24 September, 8.00pm
Director Amy Liptrott
Set and Costume Designer Ken Harrison
Noël Peirce Coward was born in 1899 and made his professional stage debut as Prince Mussel in The Goldfish at the age of 12, leading to many child actor appearances over the next few years. His breakthrough in playwriting was the controversial The Vortex (1924) which featured themes of drugs and adultery and made his name as both actor and playwright in the West End and on Broadway. During the frenzied 1920s and the more sedate 1930s, Coward wrote a string of successful plays, musicals and intimate revues including Fallen Angels (1925), Hay Fever (1925), Easy Virtue (1926), This Year Of Grace (1928), and Bitter Sweet (1929). His professional partnership with childhood friend Gertrude Lawrence, started with Private Lives (1931), and continued with Tonight At 8.30 (1936).
During World War II, he remained a successful playwright, screenwriter and director, as well as entertaining the troops and even acting as an unofficial spy for the Foreign Office. His plays during these years included Blithe Spirit, which ran for 1997 performances, outlasting the War (a West End record until The Mousetrap overtook it), This Happy Breed and Present Laughter (both 1943). His two wartime screenplays, In Which We Serve, which he co-directed with the young David Lean, and Brief Encounter quickly became classics of British cinema.
However, the post-war years were more difficult. Austerity Britain – the London critics determined – was out of tune with the brittle Coward wit. In response, Coward re-invented himself as a cabaret and TV star, particularly in America, and in 1955 he played a sell-out season in Las Vegas featuring many of his most famous songs, including Mad About the Boy, I’ll See You Again and Mad Dogs and Englishmen. In the mid-1950s he settled in Jamaica and Switzerland, and enjoyed a renaissance in the early 1960s, becoming the first living playwright to be performed by the National Theatre, when he directed Hay Fever there. Late in his career he was lauded for his roles in a number of films including Our Man In Havana (1959) and his role as the iconic Mr. Bridger alongside Michael Caine in The Italian Job (1968).
Writer, actor, director, film producer, painter, songwriter, cabaret artist as well as an author of a novel, verse, essays and autobiographies, he was called by close friends ‘The Master’. His final West End appearance was Song At Twilight in 1966, which he wrote and starred in. He was knighted in 1970 and died peacefully in 1973 in his beloved Jamaica.
For further information on Noël Coward’s life and work, visit www.noelcoward.com and to join the Noël Coward Society, visit www.noelcoward.net.
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