on 10 June 2010
Noel Coward's acerbic, celebrated tale of warring ex-lovers is an adaptable work. An MGM movie version in 1931, starring Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer, toned down the bile. A recent West End reading, with Matthew MacFadyen and Kim Cattrall, ramped it up. Here the translation is ideal, as leads Paul Scofield (Best Actor Oscar winner for A Man for All Seasons) and Patricia Routledge (a regular collaborator with Alan Bennett, though also responsible for appalling sitcom Keeping Up Appearances) oscillate effortlessly between billing and cooing, and throwing tantrums.
Routledge is Amanda, who finds herself honeymooning next door to her former husband (Scofield), at a French Riviera hotel. He's newly-married too, but the spark between the pair is still there - so they decide there's only one thing to be done, and hotfoot it to her apartment in Paris. Their passion is underscored by a fiersome volatility, though, and it isn't long until the pair are at each other's throats.
Coward's script is stuffed with epigrams, epithets and very '30s zingers, and the delivery is a joy. It might take weary sitcom afficionados a little while to dispel the memory of Routledge's Hyacinth Bucket as her plummy tones drift out of the CD player, but she's unquestionably fine here.
I liked it a lot.
This farcical look at marriage, first produced in 1930, starred the author, Noel Coward, and the legendary Gertrude Lawrence. The play's recent revivals in London and New York, however, attest to its incisive wit and its razor-sharp social observation, both of which transcend the 1930s setting and give continuing life and relevance to the play.
Elyot Chase, five years divorced, has just married a young bride, Sybil, with whom he is on his honeymoon at a French seaside resort. His former wife, Amanda Prynne, has also just remarried, and, coincidentally, she and Victor, her new husband, are also honeymooning--in the room next door. Almost immediately, Elyot and Amanda rediscover each other on their adjoining balconies, find themselves drawn to each other, and abandon their new spouses at the resort to run away together to Paris.
The major action of the play shows us the relationship of Elyot and Amanda in Paris as they try to sustain their rekindled love and avoid the pitfalls that destroyed their original marriage. Both are passionate, uninhibited, live-in-the-moment people, and both have married very traditional, predictable, and conformist new spouses. When Sybil and Victor eventually discover the lovers, who, by now, are fighting and even engaging in fisticuffs, Coward makes his point about the nature of relationships, their fragility and/or what makes them endure.
Though the play is set in the 1930s, Coward so accurately captures human traits and behavior that the play is still delighting audiences today. In his opening scene, for example, he shows Sybil subjecting new husband Elyot to a mood-killing interrogation about his former wife. He then turns this scene on its head by showing Victor interrogating Amanda about her honeymoon with Elyot, showing the two new spouses to be identical to each other--and completely opposite to Elyot and Amanda. The scenes in Paris, in which Elyot and Amanda, their passion rekindled, try to keep their roiling anger under control are hilarious, and when they eventually resort to slapping and dish-throwing, the elegant verbal duels and clever repartee we have seen till now change the play into a more visually exciting and more farcical experience.
on 2 June 2001
"If he comes near me, I shall scream the place down!" proclaims Elyot Chase, who quite by chance meets his ex wife Amanda Prynne as they are both desperately trying to enjoy their second honeymoons, quite by chance, in adjacent bedrooms in France. Their respective spouses haven't realised stickiness of the situation, as Amanda and Elyot quickly rekindle their passion for each other and take off for Paris. The pipe smoking Victor Prynne and piano playing Sibyl Chase are left behind bewilderedly licking each other's wounds.
Elyot and Amanda's tense and volatile relationship swings violently from sickeningly loving to expertly aggresive in the course of their reunion. The somewhat lost and confused Sybil and Victor then arrive at Amanda's Paris flat, with reconciliation and living happily ever after set fast in their minds.
After each member in the menage a quatre almost trips over the maid, the vesuvius that is the situation erupts. Madness, near-violence, French, and plopping are all guarenteed.
Private Lives is Noel Coward at his best. Coward himself was very fond of this 'good little play' even if he did have to 'hit Larry Olivier on the head to get him to play Victor Prynne.' If you are looking for an introduction to the genius of Noel Coward's writing, then this is the best starting point. If an established Coward fan then this is a vital addition to your collection.
Read it, buy it, play it - it cannot be ignored!
on 27 May 2010
This really brightened up a very dull couple of hours behind the steering wheel. Paul Scofield and Patricia Routledge are both wonderful as a pair of feuding former lovers reunited in the most awkward of circumstances. The pace of the plot is hectic, and the farce unravels without much time to pause for breath, but Coward's dialogue is so juicy that you're happily buffeted along by the whole witty whirlwind. It's surprisingly fresh, not remotely dated, and its comments on the battle of the sexes, love, life and relationships, are all still relevant and sharply observed. Great fun!
"Someday I'll find you
Moonlight behind you
True to the dream I am dreaming"
"Strange how potent cheap music is" - Sir Noel Coward
Private Lives, now reissued on 2 CDs, is a bright and brittle comedy of manners, with some immortal lines which you may recognise even if you were previously unfamiliar with the play. Coward and his friend Gertie Lawrence took the lead parts in the original 30's staging and the music "Someday I'll find you" was composed by Coward for the stage play and is used here - its musical shorthand for anyone who remembers the play and instantly creates, for me at least. the droll, sophisticated atmosphere of Coward's 1930's bright young things.
Elyot and Amanda, having previously been married to each other, have new partners and by chance meet on the first night of their respective honeymoons. In the opening scenes it is clear that both are volatile characters and have settled for a less tempestuous relationship with someone steady, but unexciting.
Meeting again instantly rekindles their old attraction and sharply contrasts the fact that they have settled for dullness. They fairly quickly plan to escape together, although a return of their old bickering means that they have to invent a control word "Solomon Isaacs" that either can invoke for a cooling down period.
The scene then moves to Amanda's flat in Paris, "Solomon Isaacs" is quickly shortened to "Sollocks" for convenience and events become farcical as the two are pursued by their discarded spouses and fairly quickly revert to type.
Elyot and Amanda are played by Paul Schofield and Patricia Routledge. The actors later fame has caught up with them - Routledge has such a distinctive voice that it was a bit of a struggle to visualise Amanda as a tall elegant female, rather than Hyacinth Bucket. Miriam Margolyes as Elyot's new wife Sybil (don't quibble, Sybil) does a perfect slightly vacuous girlie - but again she is now so well known that I had to blank out an image of the Spanish Infanta from Black Adder bearing down on Elyot.
Wicked and witty, the play is a little dated now, but still good fun.
A 1975 radio production of Noel Coward's famous play here comes to CD.
The play runs for a little under ninety minutes and is here presented on two cds, the first running roughly forty six minutes and the second roughly forty one and a half. There's a nice break in the middle of the play at the end of disc one so switching discs does act as a good intermission.
The box has a biography of Noel Coward on the sleeve notes and details of cast and when the initial broadcast was made.
Whilst having heard of Noel Coward this was my first exposure to his work. It's the tale of Elyot and Amanda, who divorced several years before but happen to meet again when both find themselves on honeymoon with their respective new spouses in the same location.
Elyot and Amanda loved each other very much but also couldn't stop rowing. But when they find themselves together again feelings are quickly rekindled. What are they to do about it? And how will their new spouses react?
The writing, the setting, the acting and the characters are all so 1930's, and as such the play is a wonderful record of the style of the time. The characters are so convincing because their relationships feel so real in the way they can switch from love to fights in an instant. And the dialogue is so incredibly sharp. It's not out and out laugh a minute comedy, but the fun is to be had from the behaviour of the characters and the occasional very funny bit of dialogue.
This whole thing is ideally suited to audio by virtue of being dialogue based and only using a handful of locations, thus there's no need for lots of sound effects and lots of music.
Certain character attitudes might not go down too well with modern audiences, but you have to take it in the spirit of the times in which it was written.
A delightful play and an excellent audio production.
Honeymoon shennanigans in fashionable Deauville.
Noel Coward's 1930, speedily written (and surprisingly
still popular), drama is brought effectively to life in
this workmanlike BBC audio book recording.
Directed with a light touch, as befits the one
dimensional subject matter, Ian Cotteral leads
his little cast though the architectural twists
and turns of the story of two relationships turned
inside out and upside down.
Although the language still has a certain sparkle it is
hard to find real sympathy for Coward's ghastly creations.
In the end each of the four main protagonists gets
what they deserve. Enduring love? Who can tell?
Paul Schofield and Patricia Routledge as Elyot Chase
and Amanda Prynne (such names!!) make the most of
their incredible realignment with warmth and wit.
Miriam Margoyles and John Rye as Sibyl Chase and
Victor Prynne come together more by default than
design and make the most of their perfectly shallow
and unappealing characters.
As a period piece the play still possesses a certain charm
and this production will doubtless sit well with Coward fans.
I found the sound levels be to a tad uneven here and there but
this may have more to do with my old and hairy ears than it
does with any specific sonic deficits in the recording process.
Pleasant but ephemeral.
In this rather entertaining comedy of manners from the pen of the Master, Noel Coward, four interesting (yet somehow dull...) characters face the consequences of a chance meeting.
Elyot and Sybil, and Victor and Amanda are two couples honeymooning on the Riviera, but once upon a time Elyot and Amanda were married. They meet by chance, and realise that there is still an attraction. Will they run away together, or stay loyal to their new spouses?
This rather nicely observed comedy, written in 1930 and recorded in 1975, brings to life all the strains on the various relationships between the four honeymooners. For those who like acid putdowns and rapid repartee from the mid war era, this will provide much entertainment.
Paul Schofield and Patricia Routledge shine as the ex spouses, Elyot and Amanda, two interesting yet fundamentally unlikeable characters. Carole Boyd and John Rye, as Victor and Sybil, have less to do, yet manage to portray the hurt and somewhat wet new spouses effectively, really managing to shine on the final scene where they really start to strike sparks off each other.
There are two discs, with a total runtime of 90 minutes, in a single size jewel case. There is a short essay about Coward and some cursory recording notes. A decent package, well worth a listen for fans of this more dated style of comedy.
Amanda and Elyot have been divorced for 5 years. Both have just remarried and are spending their honeymoons in the same French Riviera hotel. It is clear from the start of the play that neither of the new relationships is working out how it was intended.
The plot of `Private Lives' is familiar to most theatre goers. It demonstrates how arguments quickly develop in any relationship and in the familiarity of its dialogue lies its humour. Even while the listener laughs they are probably cringing as they recognise themselves or their partners in the play's characters. Of course it is exaggerated but it is exaggerated to make the point.
In this BBC radio production Elyot is played by Paul Schofield and Amanda by Patricia Routledge. Even though their voices are probably very familiar to listeners they still make the characters come to life in the cut and thrust of the dialogue. As ever with BBC Audio productions the sound quality and the sound effects are excellent. An entertaining and invigorating comedy of manners which is almost as good as seeing the play at a theatre.
Ah, this is beautifully done, and Routledge and Schofield have the BEST voices for the characters. Very, very enjoyable, and very light, and funny, and the perfect listen for a summer's drive.