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Oh so Private Lives

PUBLISHED: 16:47 27 May 2009 | UPDATED: 17:28 16 August 2010

STIFF upper lips and acerbic bons mots were much in evidence during Noël Coward s 1930 play Private Lives, performed last week at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre in Crayford.

STIFF upper lips and acerbic bons mots were much in evidence during Noël Coward's 1930 play Private Lives, performed last week at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre in Crayford.

Preening poseur Elyot Chase (Lee Devlin) is honeymooning with his new wife Sybil (Michelle Scott).

What he doesn't know is that his ex-wife Amanda (Sarah Tortell) is also honeymooning in the suite next door.

But despite - or more likely, because of - their volatile relationship, they are soon back together again and eloping to her flat in Paris.

Meanwhile Sybil and Victor Prynne (John Wilson) - Amanda's younger suitor - follow the couple whereupon a rather obvious solution presents itself and the status quo is more-or-less restored.

This contrived plot is best served by an open acknowledgement of its absurdity.

To this end, director Gill Grubb had clearly instructed her cast to adopt performances of such artifice that boring old realism never got a foothold.

Lee Devlin played Elyot as a no-holds-barred impersonation of Noël Coward.

Mannerisms and vocal inflexions were impressively accurate, although the self-conscious hand-on-hip posing was ultimately overdone.

John Wilson was unusually subdued in comparison, provoking laughter by often doing very little.

Michelle Scott was fine as Elyot's new, and rather naïve, young wife, but it was Sarah Tortell as the cynical world-weary Amanda who perhaps impressed the most.

Her elegant looks and lack of moral scruples proved an unbeatable combination.

Gill Meason as a French-speaking chambermaid did very well to garner so many laughs for her brief but memorable appearance.

Excellent set design by Steve Grubb saw a hotel balcony (resembling the prow of a ship) make way for a fabulously expansive art deco lounge, while immaculate sound design was overseen by Paul Allen.

The charming musical refrain of Someday I'll Find You, a myriad famous one-liners ("Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs,") and a strong directorial style all added up to an excellent evening's entertainment.

* The next production at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre is The Full Monty, a musical version of the popular film, from 18-27 June. Tickets: 01322 526390.

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