Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Private Lives

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Four stars

The French windows are suitably symmetrical at the opening of Tom Attenborough's handsome-looking touring revival of Noel Coward's superior sit-com, knocked off over a long weekend in 1930. They're certainly better matched than Elyot and Amanda, the former lovers now on the rebound and on honeymoon with brand new spouses. It's telling, however, that the adjoining balconies where chance meetings are inevitable on Lucy Osborne's set more resemble an art deco cruise liner that's fleetingly docked in port than the hotel it actually is.

What follows as Tom Chambers' Elyot dallies with Charlotte Ritchie's Sybil while Laura Rogers' alpha female Amanda toys with Richard Teverson's pompous Victor is a riot of wildly choreographed savage love that falls somewhere between passion and politesse in its cut-glass execution. Attenborough's production too presents a company of equals, with Ritchie making a bright and sparky Sybil rather than the wet sop that usually colours her character. If Teverson invests Victor with a more cartoonish air, it is Chambers and Rogers' sparring as Elyot and Amanda that turns smoking jacketed languor into the most shimmering of artforms.

In their flight to Paris, where Victoria Rigby's resigned maid Louise picks up the pieces, the couple may be addicted to one another, but they can't help but tear emotional and physical chunks off each other out of habit. Sporting assorted shades of impeccable green as if to heighten the envy on show, Rogers' Amanda approaches her love life with menaces in a production that might not have much to say for itself in terms of taking a stand, but which nevertheless gives as good as it gets in every sense.

The Herald, February 24th 2016


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