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Noel Coward’s frequently revived 1930 comedy of very bad marital manners comes up fresh and sparkling in Jonathan Kent’s finely tuned production, a transfer from Chichester sumptuously designed by Anthony Hayward.

Reputedly dashed off in a matter of days, it centres on a divorced couple Elyot and Amanda who, after five years apart, find themselves honeymooning in adjoining Deauville hotels suites with their new partners – a neatly symmetrical scenario which inevitably leads to old flames being rekindled.

Toby Stephens’ makes a suave, dashing Elyot, with a cruel and careless undertone already apparent in his interactions with his pretty young wife, Sibyl (Anna-Louise Plowman who just happens to be Mrs Stephens in real life). He’s well–matched by Anna Chancellor’s equally privileged, overtly confident Amanda who is all too aware that she isn’t quite as young as she once was. Even her outfits are chosen to complement the bohemian décor of the Paris love nest where they escape to renew both the passion and the violence of their past relationship.

But it’s obvious from the start that settling for a pale shadow of her former spouse in the shape of stuffy, decent, tweedy Victor (excellent Anthony Calf), would never have led to happiness.

Better, in Coward’s view, for sparks to fly and Stephens and Chancellor ensure that they do just that in this witty account of a turbulent couple who can’t live with each other but can’t live without each other either.

Gielgud, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6AR
Tube | Piccadilly Circus 
Until 21st September
£10.00 - £53.50
privateliveswestend.com

Photo: Tristram Kenton


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Private Lives - theatre review: Noel Coward's revived comedy at Gielgud, London
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