REVIEW: Private Lives, Nottingham Playhouse

YOU wait for ages for a Noel Coward play to arrive . . . and then two turn up in the same week.

That’s the case in Nottingham where the Playhouse which is staging ‘Private Lives’ until Saturday week (22nd October), while across town at the Theatre Royal there’s the UK tour premiere production of ‘Star Quality’ on until this Saturday, 15th.

The two represent different periods of the playwright/ actor’s great output with marital harmony and dischord being one of the themes of ‘Private Lives,’ an intimate comedy of manners set in France in 1930, a stylish contrast to his last play ‘Star Quality’ from 1967, a sharp satire taking a behind-the-scenes look of a new West End production.

The middle section of ‘Private Lives’ drew the attention of the censor in the 1930s as it focussed on the risque relationship between a divorced couple who with their new spouses book into adjoining honeymoon suites at a hotel in the swish seaside resort of Deauville.

The sea air must having been bracing as Elyot (Rupert Wickham) with his bride Sibyl (Victoria Yeates) found that he was still in love with his ex-wife, Amanda (Janie Dee), the two deciding to elope on their wedding night and head to Paris.

Time may have tempered some of the social mores and language of the 30s, but in the hands of director Giles Croft there was still some classic Coward comedy to enjoy.

Similar delights are to be enjoyed at the Theatre Royal in ‘Star Quality’ in which Golden Globe winner Amanda Donohoe of ‘LA Law’ and ‘Emmerdale’ fame stars as theatrical grand dame Lorraine Barrie in Coward’s farewell offering to fans.

Despite his years, Coward still had a way with words and wit as he lifts the curtain on a backstage world of talent and treachery; with a gallery of unforgettable characters who, besides the temperamental leading lady, also feature a ruthless director, jaded old troupers and, caught somewhere between them all, an innocent young playwright.

Tickets for ‘Private Lives’ (£7.50 to £26.50) can be obtained from the Playhouse on 0115-941-9419, and ‘Star Quality’ tickets (£11 to £27.50) from the Theatre Royal’s box office on 0115-989-5555.

-- Tony Spittles