Sunday, October 2

Private Lives – Lyceum Theatre

Private Lives is one of Noël Coward’s best-known and most-produced plays, and it is easy to see why. This two-hour production is absolutely full of snappy one-liners and delightfully stormy relationships.

As the play opens, we meet Amanda and Elyot, who have been divorced for five years. Now recently remarried, we find them on the first night of their honeymoons as they discover that they have coincidentally booked adjacent rooms at the same hotel in the south of France… If you want to know what happens next, well, you’ll have to book tickets for the play!

Originally starring Coward himself and Gertrude Lawrence, the leading parts are performed here by Nigel Havers, whose theatre company is also co-producing the tour, and Patricia Hodge, supported by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Victor, Natalie Walter as Sibyl and Aïcha Kossoko as Louise.

It is very clear that the actors are enjoying doing the play, and I enjoyed watching it, as did the rest of the Sheffield audience who were clearly delighted to see Havers and Hodge on their local stage. Having said that, it wasn’t quite the performance I was expecting given who was in the driving seat. Some of the relationships definitely showed more chemistry than others, which could be a result of the ages of the leads. Don’t get me wrong, they had plenty of energy on stage, and Hodge particularly has a magnetic presence, but casting their new spouses can only have presented something of a challenge. I was also a little disappointed that some of the comic timing and quick-fire dialogue seemed to be showing signs of wear and tear after several months on the road. Director Christopher Luscombe has made good use of the set – I particularly liked the lavish Parisian apartment in Act 2 – but I still found myself somehow wanting more from the performances.

This is classic Coward, and with a little more light and shade it would have been perfect. It was a great night out though and is definitely worth a visit.

Private Lives is playing at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield until Saturday 26th February. Audio described, signed and captioned performances are available. More information and tickets can be found here: Private Lives | Sheffield Theatres.

Reviewer: Jo Tillotson

Reviewed: 22nd February 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★