Tag Archives: Noel Coward

REVIEW: Private Lives – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The mere sight of one another from their hotel balconies on their respective honeymoons is enough to tell the previously married Elyot and Amanda that they are still in love. Noël Coward’s brittle, bickering, perennially popular pair return in Tom Attenborough’s new production of Private Lives, but does it still charm a modern audience?

Famously written in three days in 1930 and premiered at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh the same year, any new production has to tread carefully to prevent Coward’s venomous barbs from slipping into parody. Attenborough’s production doesn’t deviate from the well-trodden path of his predecessors, this is very much a traditional production and at an economical two hours including interval, you’ll be out in time for the last train home.

Tom Chambers (Elyot) has recently been making a successful career out of playing louche lotharios from the 20s and 30s, and indeed, his talents are fully exploited here. The former Strictly Come Dancing and Top Hat star gets an opportunity to show some nifty dance moves as well as his singing and piano playing skills in a medley of Coward classics. Chambers’ Elyot isn’t as fully-fleshed-out as one would want it to be and some of the pithiest and wittiest lines are thrown away in his delivery. This is not a duel of equals as Coward intended it to be, Laura Rogers’ Amanda is a far more feisty foe than her former spouse. That said his performance is both engaging and entertaining. Indeed, his entry alone prompts applause from the appreciative audience and there are murmurs of anticipation before each of these oft-quoted lines.

In support Charlotte Ritchie as second spouse Sybil and Richard Teverson as ‘rampaging gasbag’ Victor have little to do, but what they do, they do well.

Attenborough’s production offers nothing new and may not be as ‘jagged with sophistication’ as it could be, but Coward’s wonderful words retain their ability to amuse and entertain over 80 years after they were written.

Runs until 27 February 2016 | Image: Alasdair Muir

This article was originally published at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/private-lives-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Blithe Spirit – Gielgud Theatre, London

Noël Coward’s irresistible play Blithe Spirit returns to the West End accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets and Dame Angela Lansbury in her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years. But in some ways Lansbury’s presence is a distraction that overshadows the supremely gifted actors on whom much of the action hangs.

Written in five days in 1941 whilst on holiday in Portmeirion after his London flat was bombed, Coward said on its completion: “I knew it was witty, I knew it was well constructed, and I also knew that it would be a success”.

Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre Blithe Spirit at GielgudMarried to second wife, the straight-laced, reliable Ruth (Janie Dee), and seeking some background for a new novel about a homicidal medium, author Charles Condimine (Charles Edwards) decides to hold a séance with local spiritualist Madame Arcati (Lansbury). But when the dotty medium summons the spirit of Charles’ first wife, the effervescent (and unfaithful) Elvira, marital discord ensues as Charles begins to question the quiet life he’s come to embrace.

10529_show_landscape_large_01While accusations of misogyny have been levelled at the play in modern times, it ploughs a familiar furrow for Coward, a subject explored in different ways in his works Private Lives, Hay Fever and Design for Living, that of his belief in the impossibility of monogamy. It must be said though that Coward does allows his female characters to be as naughty as his males. Sparkling with Coward’s wonderful, witty dialogue the whole production is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. It has its flaws, it takes a little while to warm up and there’s a little lull in the second act, but any flaws are easily forgiven.

For most, it is Lansbury that is the draw and it’s undoubtedly a belter of a role for any actress to get her teeth into, and happily she doesn’t disappoint. Delightfully dotty, she totters around the stage with an energy that belies her years, conjuring mayhem with every step. To her credit Lansbury doesn’t play it solely for laughs, Madame Arcati truly believes she has a gift and the withering looks she aims at sceptical local doctor’s wife Mrs. Bradman thoroughly chill. It must be said though that there are little moments when she’s grasping for her line but she covers it well, and for an 88 year old it is a remarkable performance.

1.168979The stand-out star though, is Charles Edwards without doubt one of the UK’s finest actors. He careers from suave imperturbability to abject panic when Elvira threatens his cosy existence with consummate ease and his comic timing is masterful. Edwards is ably supported by a flirty Jemima Rooper as Elvira and the ever-watchable Janie Dee as Ruth. There’s also an amusing turn from Patsy Ferran as dippy maid Edith here in her professional debut.

This is a classy affair throughout and well worth catching if you can and oh, so much more than just a vehicle for Britain’s latest theatrical Dame.

REVIEW: Noel Coward’s Private Lives – A Play, A Pie and A Pint, Oran Mor, Glasgow

I’m sure you’ve probably gathered that I go to the theatre a lot – sometimes 3-4 times a week for a combination of work and pleasure. How I’ve managed to miss or ignore Oran Mor’s A Play A Pie And A Pint until now, I just don’t know. The lure of food is never a bad thing in my book but the lure of food, alcohol (or not if you choose) and Noel Coward is just about downright irresistible. And so it proved as I trotted off to see this, not quite knowing what I was letting myself in for. Now the gathered (and obviously well-versed in the routine) hoards around Oran Mor were beating a tactical path to the rear of the bar to queue to snaffle either the best seats or the best pies – I’m not sure which. After doing the old jacket on one chair, bag on another routine to nab a prime view amongst the unreserved seating I went to obtain my promised pie and pint and very fine they were too.

The biggest surprise of the day wasn’t the jam-packed theatre space, the fine pies or the sheer amazement at the fact that they managed to condense Noel Coward’s 1930 masterpiece into an hour, but the sheer quality of the acting on show. Each member of the cast fizzed and sparkled throughout the whole of this utterly charming and truly delectable story. Selina Boyack, James Mackenzie, Jennifer Hainey and Richard Conlon deserve every plaudit thrown their way. They portrayed the sizzling chemistry, high comedy and moments of still shocking (even after 82 years) amorality of the piece perfectly.

Get a ticket to this quick – I urge you – runs until Saturday details here.

REVIEW: Design For Living – The Old Vic, London

This Noel Coward play has returned to the London stage for the first time in over 15 years. Beginning in 1930s bohemian Paris, it travels to London and then to the heights of Manhattan society. A tempestuous love triangle unravels between interior designer Gilda, playwright Leo and artist Otto – three people unashamedly and passionately in love with each other.

Initially banned in Britain it certainly lives up to Noel Coward’s quote “Let’s live turbulently”. This production at the Old Vic is opulently staged and has some stellar acting performances from Andrew Scott (recently seen as Moriarty in Sherlock) who has a magenetic presence and fine comic timing and Tom Burke (from one of my favourite dramas State of Play). The rapport between the two made each scene together sparkle and the laughter just flowed when they were together – to the point where my mascara was literally running down my face. The only weak link was Lisa Dillon who just didn’t convince, she was too uptight, clipped, middle-England to be believable as the bohemian-minded Gilda.

A play that shows however light-weight Coward appeared on the surface he managed to convey some very forward-thinking views in between the laughs, and laughs a-plenty there are to be had here.

A play of quality, beautifully staged, directed and acted.