Friday, 23 January 2009

Private Lives (Hampstead Theatre revival)

In 1962, the Hampstead Theatre revived Noël Coward's "Private Lives". At the time, this was a rather interesting choice for the theatre, since Coward was seen as old-fashioned and dated. It was a hit, it transferred to the West End and began what the playwright himself dubbed "Dad's Renaissance" - a revaluation of his work, which included the 1964 revival of "Hayfever" at the National and his last stage appearance in 1965 in "Suite in Three Keys". As part of their 50th anniversary this year, the Hampstead theatre decided to produce it again. Tonight was the first preview and I went with a friend.

The play itself tells the events that follow the accidental meeting of a divorced couple, Amanda and Elyot, on the first night of their honeymoons with new spouses. The moment they see each other the old flame is back on and they escape leaving Amanda's new husband and Elyot's new wife somewhat bewildered. I love this play. It was the first of his I ever read, and I think Act I alone is one of the funniest things ever written, its symmetry reminding me of Wilde's Earnest. And this production doesn't disappoint. Actually the opposite. It surprised me. The director striped it of all the trappings of the cocktail parties and the stylisation of the art deco, placed a bed in the middle of Amanda's studio in Paris and made it something fresh and openly sexy that goes so well with the words, showing how truly modern they are.

The play is on until the end of February and I truly hope it goes to the West End.

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