Review: Private Lives, Sheringham Little Theatre

Actors from the Sheringham Little Theatre summer rep version of Private Lives. Picture: ANDI SAPEY

Actors from the Sheringham Little Theatre summer rep version of Private Lives. Picture: ANDI SAPEY - Credit: Archant

Noel Coward's play was originally written as a vehicle for himself and actress Gertrude Lawrence (there are five characters, but it's really a duologue). It opened in 1930s London to mixed reviews. 'Thin,', 'brittle, and tenuous' said the cognoscente.

These days, those are the qualities we love. The stylish dialogue shimmers with flippant wit. And if the characters sometimes question the need to be quite so superficial, the audience does not.

Perhaps it was as much the plot the critics were carping about, however, as the style of the writing. Even Coward said that there was no action after Act One. A divorced couple are honeymooning with new partners. When they end up next door to each other in the same hotel, sparks fly. That's it. So how did this play end up such a huge Box Office hit?

Sheringham Little Theatre's riotous production will help you solve the puzzle. In the lead is Helen Keeley as Amanda. The minute she walks on stage - low voiced, brimming with sultry energy, you know you're in for a treat. Her character describes herself as 'far too knowing' and there is a wonderful sophistication in the way she plays each scene (aided no doubt by the subtle swish of Kathryn Flynn's superb costumes). Mark Oosterveen as her ex-husband Elyot, is gloriously restrained and elegantly snooty. Maeve Smyth and Luke Francis in the supporting roles ably abet the two leads as the play descends into comedy mayhem. Joyous.

Eve Stebbing

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