Private Lives

Rachel’s Theatre Highlights of 2014

7

Private Lives, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

14th February – 8th March

Francis O’Connor’s spectacular designs were worth the ticket price alone for this sparkling Noel Coward comedy.


This-wide-night-Tron-Theatre-1

This Wide Night, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

20th February – 15th March

Funny and heartbreaking, The Tron Theatre Company’s production of Chloe Moss’ This Wide Night was an eye-opening production.


And Then There Were None, Dundee Rep Ensemble, Dundee

5th March – 29th March

Visually stunning, the Dundee Rep Ensemble’s staging of this Agatha Christie masterpiece was a spine-tingling experience.


Anita Vettesse and Scott Reid. Photo by Lesley Black.previewA Perfect Stroke, Oran Mor, Glasgow/Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

31st March – 5th April (Oran Mor)  8th April – 12th April (Traverse)

After school rehearsals have never been so intimate and intense. A Perfect Stroke received a well deserved Best New Play nomination at the CATS awards earlier this year.


Beowulf, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

24th July – 2nd August

A fascinating set and a superb trio of actresses, this dramatic reading of Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf was a theatre experience to cherish.


Bu_klCKCEAEevRT The Addams Family, Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

31st July – 25th August

Creepy, kooky and hilariously funny, this was my highlight of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 – full disclosure!


Vanishing Point 1Tomorrow, Tramway, Glasgow

3rd – 11th October

A visual masterpiece in ways that simply cannot be captured in photographs, Vanishing Point’s Tomorrow was delicate and stunning.


XBuiOgFvIn Time O Strife, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow (tour)

14th – 18th October

Poignant, angry and beautifully staged with a blend of poetry and music, this play was a testament to Scottish theatre.


img_dancederby_2Dance Derby, Paisley Town Hall, Paisley (tour)

4th November

Beautiful, Brecht and thought-provoking theatre. I haven’t stopped talking about it yet.


top-hatTop Hat, Theatre Royal, Glasgow (tour)

2nd – 13th December

A thrilling reminder of the golden days of Hollywood. Visual splendour and superbly cast. Tapping through the UK until July 2015.

 

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BLOGATHON: Coward on Screen

The world of Noel Coward is undeniably irresistible: a gregarious whirl of sparkling comedies and insightful satires that leap from the pages on which they are presented, thrilling readers and audiences almost one hundred years on from his first experiment with playwriting (a one-act comedy co-written with fellow performer and writer Esmé Wynne). Publishing over fifty plays throughout his lifetime, Coward is perhaps best remembered for stage productions such as Private Lives, Easy Virtue or Design for Living. Many of his plays have been adapted for film, a personal favourite being the 1931 adaptation of Private Lives. Coward’s work continues to be in the public eye, from stage revivals and public broadcasts to lavish film adaptations (the most recent being the 2008 adaptation of Easy Virtue starring Jessica Biel).

The impact of adapting a play into a film is often a point of argument. Indeed, a film adaptation can expose wider audiences to the works of a particular writer or composer; it can contribute to the ruination (or improvement) of ticket sales; it can provide life changing career boosts or quite the opposite.

Readers familiar with my writing will probably be aware of the deep connection I have formed with one of Coward’s most successful plays Blithe Spirit therefore it seems only natural that my train of thought should instantly orbit towards this particular spiritual comedy. Fascinatingly, it was the 1945 adaptation directed by David Lean that first introduced me to Blithe Spirit. Although Mr Coward produced the adaptation himself, he deemed the film as an unfortunate disappointment. Lean incorporated several unnecessary changes to the setting (the play is set entirely in the Condomines’ living room whereas the film consists of scenes set in Madame Arcati’s home, various other rooms in the Condomines’ home and several outdoor scenes). The somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere achieved in the static nature of the play’s setting is diminished almost entirely by the film’s scene changes. Charles’ determination to escape his vehement wives is somewhat reduced; the power of the wives seems to be a lacklustre afterthought, their victorious and ghostly battle truncated by a hastily rewritten ending that doesn’t quite make sense or have as impressive an impact as the original, haunting ending of the play. Not only is Coward’s ambiguous and thrilling ending omitted from the film version, there seems to be a curious misdirection throughout the entire screen production: Coward’s script is fast-paced and quick-witted yet this film cannot claim to be responsible for many laugh out loud moments. The script is, in my opinion, rushed from start to finish with Coward’s sophisticated language delivered at such a pace that it is difficult to fully appreciate the fantastic humour featured within his lengthy script.

Through the power of film, an individual interpretation is solidified – immortalised if you wish – but this interpretation may not prove to be the ‘right’ interpretation. To momentarily remain in the world of poltergeists and ectoplasm, Constance Cummings’ Ruth Condomine (Blithe Spirit, 1945) is cold and not particularly likeable. Other actresses have taken their portrayal of Ruth in antithetical directions: a weepy and insipid character (also partially distasteful – recently displayed in this West End production) to a fierce and powerful character (an incredibly enjoyable portrayal that featured in this production last year). The ephemeral nature of theatre allows these characters to be developed and experimented with. Effectively, Coward’s work (and many others like him) is continuously being changed, analysed and reinterpreted. The solidification of a play into a film may be beneficial for some but for the play itself, its reputation shall henceforth be diminished to merely “the play of the film” for a huge percentage of the population.

It’s entirely possible that the success of Coward’s work lies in its ephemeral quality; its whimsical and improbable nature translates better to the stage where there is a strong element of Coleridge’s Suspension of Disbelief. Even his more serious plays such as The Vortex and its themes of vanity and substance abuse, whilst still a fantastic success on stage, is long drawn out and boring on screen in the BBC’s 1969 adaptation. Coward’s work loses its unique sparkle on screen, the humour suppressed, the satire vanquished. There’s simply nothing quite like going to see a Coward play on stage.

REVIEW: Private Lives, Edinburgh Lyceum Theatre

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.