Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 31 January 2014
Private Lives, MTC, Jan 31, 2014 ***1/2
By Nöel Coward, Melbourne
Theatre Company MTC Southbank Theatre, The Sumner,
Jan 31 until March 8, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Full review will appear after
publication in Herald Sun online today, Fri Jan 31, 2014, or in print. KH
Nadine Garner and Leon Ford
his 1930 comedy of manners, Private Lives, Nöel Coward drapes a gossamer-thin veil of wit and flamboyance over two spiteful lovers,
allowing us to laugh at their awful behaviour without feeling too politically
some cruel fate, divorced couple, Elyot (Leon Ford) and Amanda (Nadine Garner),
meet again while both are honeymooning with their new spouses in a luxury,
French hotel, and their volatile relationship is reignited with disastrous
rekindled passion sends them fleeing, in a flurry of deceit, to Amanda’s Paris
flat where they sip cocktails, dance to gramophone records and lounge about in
the languorous afterglow of lust – until the bickering and slapping starts all
notorious ‘theatricality’ – these days unmasked as campery – litters the play
with his inimitable, entertainingly witty banter, acerbic arguments, clipped articulation, flamboyant costumes and dandyish behaviour.
Ford is suitably cool, sophisticated, foppish
and acid-tongued as Elyot while Garner balances posturing elegance and
delicious seduction with slapstick.
Their coupling tumbles amusingly from
glamorous teasing, posing and pouting, into irrepressible passion that escalates
into bitter acrimony and absurd violence.
Despite their characters’ narcissism, cruelty
and infantile tiffs, Ford and Garner manage to make them charming and
Durack is delightfully prim, pretty and demanding as Sibyl and John Leary gives
dowdy Victor a feisty edge when he challenges Elyot to fight.
Forsyth almost steals the show in her inspired cameo as French maid, Louise,
who sneezes, scoffs and stumbles in a consummate, understated clown act.
Although Sam Strong’s production is set in the
30s, he incorporates contemporary songs with some period tunes that are all
played on piano and sung by this versatile cast.
The modern music may engage younger audiences
with this period piece, but Coward die-hards may be less enamoured of such
The performances are accomplished and
colourful and the production enjoyable, but the level of languor, vanity and
flamboyance could go up a few notches to make it, well, more Cowardish.
The second act seems to spins its wheels with
Elyot and Amanda’s repetitive dialogue until the fighting starts and the
deserted spouses arrive.
The elaborate, realistic design (Tracy Grant
Lord) emphasises 1930s opulence, and Strong’s use of the revolving stage
provides some hilarious opportunities for door-slamming farce, although it is a
bit dizzying after too many twirls.
This is a diverting production that may entice
a new audience to a love of Coward’s wry humour and 1930s style.
By Kate Herbert
John Leary, Nadine Garner, Leon Ford, Lucy Durack
Set & Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord;
Designer Paul Jackson; Composer Mathew Frank; Assistant Director Tanya