The world of Noel Coward is undeniably one of glamour, sophistication and flamboyance. The streets of Edinburgh are littered with locals clad in dark, thick clothing but within the walls of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, 1930’s France bursts to life with an array of colour, class and Cowardisms. Private Lives, one of Noel Coward’s best known comedies, is often revived for delighted audiences. With decadently lavish sets and elegant costumes designed by Francis O’Connor this production of the classic comedy is certainly one to remember.
Upon curtain up, a polite applause rippled through the audience as we caught our first glimpse of O’Connor’s designs. A towering hotel dominated the first act; fading into obscurity with height. With palm trees on either side and adjoining terraces overlooking the sea, the scene was set. Latter acts presented an Art Deco Parisian flat complete with vast windows overlooking the iconic skyline of Paris. Complimented by O’Connor’s striking costumes, the social whirl of the thirties was brought to life in front of our very eyes.
In the L’amour hotel in the South of France newlyweds Elyot and Sybil have arrived for their honeymoon. In the room next door Victor and Amanda have also began to settle into their honeymoon suite. For both couples, a small detail looms over their happiness: Elyot and Amanda have been married before. To each other. When the divorced couple encounter one another on the adjoining terraces, their relationship is rekindled. Both characters have quick tempers and a tendency to bicker thus fly through a plethora of emotions before finally deciding that they simply cannot live without one another.
The highlight of the show comes towards the end of the second act, when Elyot and Amanda’s bickering reaches its climax as the couple fall back into their old habits of hurling verbal and physical abuse at one another – a physical fight produces gasps and laughs alike from the audience and also results in the destruction of the Parisian flat’s decor.
Coward’s script is handled well by the small cast of five. John Hopkins is particularly fantastic as Elyot and Kirsty Besterman brings a wonderful personality and physical comedy to the role of Amanda. Strong support is provided by Ben Deery as Victor and Emily Woodward as Sybil. Nicola Roy’s appearance as Louise is regrettably short.
Noël Coward’s timeless and sparkling comedy is here to stay until 8th March. Pop along to the Lyceum to be transported to a world of class, cocktails and love/hate relationships.