REVIEW: PRIVATE LIVES (Churchill Theatre Bromley)

Private Lives is my absolute favourite Noël Coward play, full camp humour, frivolous behaviour and heaps of flamboyance, it is quintessentially Coward. However after seeing Jonathan Kent’s sensational revival several years ago with the charming Toby Stephen’s and fabulous Anna Chancellor, the bar was set pretty high for Tom Chambers and Laura Rogers in this latest touring adaptation.

Tom Attenborough directs this 1930s comedy of manners that sees a divorced couple honeymooning with their new partners, when they find themselves on neighbouring balconies to one another and reignite their stormy passion.

Tom Chambers and Laura Rogers take on the roles of ‘can’t live with, can’t live without each other’ Elyot and Amanda. Chambers has oodles of suave charm (and thrown in Charleston moves) and Rogers vivacious flapper glamour, their on stage chemistry is wonderful, particularly in the end of the first act where their spark really starts to sizzle and their roller-coaster relationship journey’s through moments of sheer bliss to scrappy fights. Once their lust has burnt away they start niggling and sniping at each other, pouncing around in silk dressing gowns at Amanda’s Parisian apartment as a vicious cycle begins again and a record gets smashed over someone’s head.

Their poor partners, the girlish Sibyl and humble Victor played brilliantly by Charlotte Ritchie and Richard Teverson, embark on an awkward journey together to find their spouses, only to catch them in the clinch of a full fist fight. After some bickering over brioche and coffee, it appears Sibyl and Victor are just as bad as the divorcees and Elyot and Amanda sneak off together, leaving their partners engaged in what is about to be their own punch up.

Attenborough’s delightful production is full of silliness and frolicsome fun however Elyot and Amanda’s chemistry takes a little while to get going. When the moment comes for them to run away together, their impulsive desire seemed to be a little lacking and so the urge to will them on was sadly missing.

However, all in all Private Lives is hugely enjoyable and the perfect antidote to those January blues. Perhaps with a few tweaks this production could really shine and take its place amongst some of the greats.

Reviewed by Becky Usher
Photo: Alastair Muir

Private Lives runs at the Churchill Theatre Bromley until Saturday 23rd January before embarking on a nationwide tour