Private Lives by Noel Coward

Oct 3rd-7th & 10th-14th, 2007 @ 8:00 P.M.


  • Sean Roberts as >Elyot
  • Aerin Kemp as Amanda
  • Zorba Dravillas as >Victor
  • Tiana Meade as Sybil
  • Dympna McConell as The French Maid

  • Directed by Ian Malcolm

Noel Coward's piece de resistance of his life's work is undoubtedly 'Private Lives'.

Brief Outline
Amanda and Elyot put their hearts, words and fists into Coward's 1930's version of the war of the sexes. Having fallen out of love with a bump, Elyot has taken a young wife; Sybil, and Amanda has settled on a sturdy ploughhourse by the name of Victor. They end up honeymooning where they had originally honey-mooned and meet again at a most awkward time. They make the best of a bad situation with typical British pluck and manners as they attempt to salvage the situation.

The situation escalates as old fires are ignited at the expense of the new romantic foils; Sybil and Victor. Sean Roberts is an old hand around the British drawing room and his rich voice and deadpan timing mine gold out of Coward's words.

Director Ian Malcolm identifies the vocal line as being the building blocks of the play. A perfectionist; Malcolm succeeds in getting work out of an actor, work that they themselves did not know was there.

Coward vs. Wilde
Coward seems to me to be the poor man's; Oscar Wilde, but it must be tempered by the reality that Coward only fails to compete with 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. In all other comic and dramatic ways Coward is likely the superior wordsmith.

Improving the English language
Bottle Tree Productions, in their two years of existence have done a number of English playwright's that celebrate language, and with Wilde and Coward, and perhaps with Jane Austen, English is a language recreated by these writers as it could be, spun into gold by dazzling wits, not what it too often is in reality, a dull dross. There is a certain ephemeral ideal of the English language that celebrates wit and intelligence and the drop-dead comic timing of the delivery of a line.

Shakespeare was on another level altogether as he recreated English language for the stage, by listening to people in the streets, by creating an idealized aristocratic language and by creating a rhythm and style for the magic world of faeiries, spirits and goblins.

From Ordinary Beginnings
Coward, like Shakespeare was not startlingly presented on the stage at birth. He was of the common fabric of society.

Born to working class parents, Coward had been enrolled into a dance school by his mother. He bacame noticed and started getting performing work, and though not well-schooled in the literary arts he read feverishly and began publishing plays in his teens. By 14, he was being introduced around high society and began cultivating his style with both word and dress.

Private Lives was a great success for Coward as he wrote it and starred in it with long time performing friend; Gertrude Lawrence and a young actor by the name of Lawrence Olivier. A politically incorrect aspect to Private Lives is the physical violence directed at each other by long-time lovers and quarrellers Amanda and Elyot. Of course that might just demonstrate a tremendous lack of insight into heterosexual couples by Coward, or the play might just be another provocative piece by Coward challenging the norms of the day. Though conservative in his political beliefs, Coward would sometimes antagonize certain elements of the public who would try to get close enough to spit at him.

In Private Lives, the words are the weapons of choice,and Coward often uses these same words to challenge the vacant mores of the high society that he had adopted as his own

What goes on in one's Private Lives usually remains behind closed doors and Coward's homosexuality was never publicly discussed though it was well-known. Amanda and Elyot descend into comic madness as their words inflame and arouse. Is the pen mightier that than the sword? Sometimes, perhaps. Certainly Coward's use of the pen in war time and peace time earned him a knighthood no less enduring than that of historical tin cans on horseback.



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