My first theatre visit for 2016 was last night’s trip to Private Lives at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley. Starring Tom Chambers (Holby City, Casualty), Charlotte Ritchie (Fresh Meat, Call The Midwife), Richard Teverson (Downton Abbey, Jamaica Inn) and Laura Rogers (New Tricks, Midsomer Murders).
Newly married couple, Elyot and Sibyl Chase (Tom Chambers and Charlotte Ritche) are enjoying their honeymoon when by chance their hotel neighbours are Elyot’s ex wife Amanda (Laura Rogers) and her new husband Victor (Richard Teverson). Love, anger, despair and even violence follow in this comedy as the four characters struggle to come to terms with who they are, and what they get up to in their private lives.
Noel Coward’s comedy focuses on how even the most well to do of us can become wild animals, in good and bad ways, behind closed doors. Bravely, none of Coward’s characters can be described as a true hero or heroine, their flaws being far more prevalent throughout Private Lives than any positive attributes. It is then up to the audience to decide whether these characters are truly awful people or if, simply, they are so in their private lives. When talking to Tom Chambers after the show he explained that “most people have yelled and said some awful things behind closed doors”, and therefore the entire audience of The Churchill Theatre last night felt a connection with the rather motley bunch of characters on stage.
The energy of the cast is remarkable, as the passion mounts throughout the performance. Tom Chambers as Elyot leaps around the stage with ease, his dancing skills being tested in a slightly different style than in his performance in the Olivier Award winning Top Hat. The pace of the show was the key to its realism – with passionate arguments and loving embraces tangling into one complicated web, just as you’d expect. Laura Rogers as Amanda Prynne was bristling with energy from the moment she burst through the net curtains, creating a character ruled by her heart and full of emotion. Whilst Charlotte Ritche as Sibyl played a young girl desperate for a right a proper life, just as she had imagined, who suddenly discovered all her new husband’s worst traits, and her own over the course of the play.
Ultimately, Private Lives was made for me by the line, “Don’t quibble Sibyl!” which I firmly believe should be available on Noel Coward themed merchandise across the country. Fun and witty, with moments of truth and sincerity amongst the heightened drama and slapstick, this production of Private Lives is one to catch on its current UK tour.