REVIEW: Private Lives, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, until October 27.
Sorry about this if you haven’t already got your tickets, but not only is Private Lives one of the most delightful productions you could ever hope to see, it is also completely sold out to the end of its run.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s rather-uneven 50th anniversary season comes to a glorious conclusion with Jonathan Kent’s sparkling revival of Noel Coward’s great fur-flying comedy – the perfect way to send us all home happy for the sadly theatre-less winter ahead.
Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens are perfectly matched as the reckless, glamorous lovers who are hopeless apart and even worse together.
One moment they are cooing their love; the next, they are ripping each other’s heads off, and not just verbally. Director Kent orchestrates the most fabulous on-stage bust-up you could ever hope for; Chancellor and Stephens attack it with gusto.
Elyot and Amanda are bitchy, spiteful and monstrous, but Stephens and Chancellor, with performances wonderfully rich in little looks and gestures, also made them cool and elegant, exactly as you’d imagine the Master conceived them – complex aggravating creatures that you really can’t help falling for.
At least, life is never dull – and they know it as they immediately ditch their new partners in favour of past thrills and endless battles.
Anthony Calf is excellent as the dullard new hubby Amanda has inexplicably lumbered herself with; and Anna-Louise Plowman is perfect as the sweetly-drippy new wife Elyot has acquired.
Both are finally driven to fireworks by their truly-exasperating partners, but they are rank amateurs compared to the positively volcanic Elyot and Amanda.
A terrific evening. Not that that’s any consolation to those not quick enough to get tickets.