Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Private Lives

At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatre Cymru , Clwyd Theatr Cymru , November 18, 2000
Terry Hands' production of "Private Lives" succeeds in generating interest and amusement in what Coward himself described in 1930 as "a plot-less play". Basically, the story revolves around Elyot and his ex-wife Amanda.
Divorced and newly re-married to Sybil and Victor respectively, they find themselves on honeymoon in adjacent hotel rooms - a contrived situation, with the audience immediately anticipating the outcome. Amanda and Elyot come full circle and actually elope with each other!

First observations of the stage should actually prepare us for this outcome. The cleverly designed set is subtly symbolic - almost suggesting an open oyster shell, with its circular platform and circular background. Equally, the plot seems to have no beginning and no end. The characters simply go round in circles, pursuing shallow and inconsequential lives. Hands' clever stage direction reinforces this - Amanda's entrances completing the circle of Elyot's exits. Amanda and Elyot are two halves of the same circle, as their echoing dialogue with Victor and Sybil illustrates. Victor and Sybil find themselves left empty, having been drained by their partners - symbolised by their empty cocktail glasses.

Simon Dutton (Elyot) and Carol Royle (Amanda) skilfully revel in their pretentious rôles, with masterful use of body-language and staging evoking both a sense of pity and amusement. Their stage presence runs rings round their more practical, prim, proper and insecure spouses. Robert Perkins (Victor) and Lindsay Carr (Sybil) are thoroughly convincing in their portrayals of the latter - yet even they come full circle when they end up mirroring Elyot and Amanda's wrestling match.

This is an amusing, highly technical and accomplished performance.

Reviewed by: Elaine Atack

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