Review: Private Lives at The Lowry

There was a certain excitement stroke cockiness as I strode, yes strode into the Lowry last night.

I’ve been to the Lowry before. I’ve seen Nigel Havers on stage before. I’ve seen Nigel Havers in a play at the Lowry before. I’ve seen a production of Private Lives in Manchester before.

But never had all parts come together for me in what already felt like a perfect storm.

Noel Coward’s Private Lives had been forever etched on my radar thanks to my ‘fascination-bordering-obsession’ for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the already twice-divorced couple who famously took on the lead roles on Broadway in 1983.

And it is all too apparent why.

Private Lives tells the story of Elyot and Amanda, who were once married, find themselves on honeymoon with their new partners, in the same hotel on the French Riviera, admiring the view from adjoining balconies. Their initial horror quickly evaporates and soon they are sharing cocktails. Who knows what the future holds for them now…

In this production, The Olivier Award winning and glorious Patricia Hodge, plays Amanda, Nigel Havers, charm personified, plays Elyot, the role taken by Noël Coward himself in the original production in 1930.

Both actors bringing the class demanded of the roles and words, the clipped delivery of the ferocious back and forth of the once married couple was captivating.

Havers and Hodge were deliciously devilish, as they quarrelled, kissed, sang, duelled and danced, delivering Coward’s bitingly witty repartee surely as nature indeed intended.

We laughed, gasped (and coughed – who knew 15 years ago two solitary cigarettes smoked briefly aloft a theatre stage could cause such reaction) as the play reached its dizzy heights.

Worthy sparring partners, we would assume their respective spouses, Sybil (Natalie Walter) and Victor (Dugald Bruce-Lockhart) are meek, mild, accommodating; the perfect antidote to their previous fractious marriage. Indeed at the top of the play, aloft their French Riviera hotel balconies, this appears so.

Hold their cocktails.

Hysterically and screamingly funny, in all definitions of the word, by the end, it was difficult to choose which ‘couple’ was the most wonderfully abhorrent.

There was also a brief but spirited appearance by Aïcha Kossoko as French maid Louise (my GCSE in French only letting me down slightly), bringing the calm (and brioche) into the field of battle.

With sets, songs and sollocks (not a typo) we were transported straight to the 20s (no the other less pandemicky 20s) in what was a glorious and riotous farce.

Plus Havers in tuxedos and smoking jackets – a match made in heaven.

Such fun.

On until 19 Feb, for all details and to book tickets, head to The Lowry website – Private Lives

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