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Written in four days, Noel Coward’s farce Private Lives is a theatre classic. It is regularly revived on Broadway, while film versions and radio plays abound. No pressure then on Joanna Carrick and Red Rose Chain’s production!
The plot is simple. A divorced couple are on their respective new honeymoons with their new partners. It transpires that the couples are in adjacent rooms in the same hote,l which proves a trifle awkward. But when it transpires that they still have feelings for each other things get heated.
We first meet Sybil, wonderfully underplayed as an innocent lacking any real depth by Harriet Leitch, as she admires the view from the balcony and ponders the ownership of the yacht in the bay. She is soon joined by new husband Elyot, played by Ricky Oakley in a John Cleese inspired manner – especially as he screams “Sybil!”.
Once they disappear for cocktails the bumbling Victor arrives complete with golf clubs which he manages to assault members of the front row audience with. Ryan Penny plays this part in such a wonderfully pompous manner. Enter Amanda (Fizz Waller), fresh from her bath as a femme fatal in her black lingerie. Together they too admire the view and ponder the ownership of the yacht in the bay.
Amanda is the first to discover the awkwardness of their situation. Fizz Waller’s facial expressions are pricelessly funny as she looks across the balcony at her former husband. From that moment on we are on a roller coaster ride of laughter, fighting, shouting, lying, crying, remorse, pillow fights and pompousness.
But let us not forget Louise, the maid. Played by Rei Mordue, a member of Red Rose Chain’s youth theatre. It is she who plays a vital role in bringing civility back to life, after all one cannot let the servants see us being uncivilised, can we?
The intimacy of the small Avenue Theatre immerses you in the story. You duck as tea spurts; soda siphons spray and feathers fly. It is a laugh-out-loud, riotously funny production. If you have never seen this classic, Red Rose Chain’s production in an excellent place to start. If you have seen it countless times then go and see this refreshing interpretation, you will not be disappointed.