"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.