A not-so-modern twist on the 1930’s Noël Coward classic, Private Lives at The Lowry theatre is a sordid and briefly romantic comedy that knows its target audience well.
The play led the almost sold-out audience through a second-chance romance, that just so happens to see the two ex-lovers meet again on their honeymoon night with their new respective partners.
Elyot, played by Nigel Haver’s well known for his conman role of Lewis Archer on Coronation Street, and Amanda, played by Patricia Hodge, fall in love again on a hotel suite balcony, before leaving their newlywed partners behind to rekindle their romance.
Full of relatable humour, good old British sarcasm, and just a hint of romance, the play is effortlessly funny, providing some much-needed escapism for the two hours the actors are on stage. The play takes the vulnerability of the lover who is left behind and turns it into comedy gold.
“It wasn’t an innocent girls’ heart; it was jagged with sophistication.”
Timeless jokes about spiteful mother in laws, the long process of a couple trying to decide on somewhere for dinner were easy, quick laughs for the audience of mainly 40 years and above.
However, some of the punchlines do not translate well to today’s political and social landscape. The play often falls back on old tropes of ‘the beaten wife’, which would probably have been popular in its original time but could leave a bitter taste in the mouth of some today.
“If you don’t stop screaming, I’ll murder you.”
“I hope it (dinner) chokes you.”
There did appear to be a slight acknowledgment of this, as Amanda’s husband berates her for lacking in femininity, she responds to him with ‘I did so hope our honeymoon would be progressive’.
Whilst the cast boasts some big names, it lacks in diversity. The only character of colour happens to be the French servant to Amanda, Louise, who is played by Aïcha Kossoko, another reflection of its time.
Despite this, the audience was left in hysterics as Amanda and Elyot fall in and out of the same old arguments in a style that can only be likened to the regularly referenced Friends punchline of ‘we were on a break’.
The set is limited, two adjacent balconies in act one and the living room of an apartment in France for the rest of the play, but the use of props, lighting, and music helps to keep the audience immersed despite this.
The highlight of the evening would have to be Nigel Havers playing ‘Someday I’ll Find You’ on the piano, a song penned by Noël Coward for the original play, as Elyot and Amanda serenade each other – a truly magical moment.
Private Lives is playing at The Lowry theatre until the 19th of February and limited tickets are still available to buy at The Lowry Theatre website.