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The Mill at Sonning - Private Lives

20th June to 3rd August 2019

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A good crack at Coward

Lively production of Private Lives opens at The Mill at Sonning

Private Lives, at The Mill at Sonning, until August 3

Ever since it first opened at the Phoenix Theatre in August 1930, Noel Coward's Private Lives has been a successful and popular 'well-made play'.

The story follows the antics of Elyot, played as a real smoothie by Darrell Brokis, and Amanda, played by Eva Jane Willis as a volatile young woman, who can't live with or without each other. At the opening the two are on honeymoon with new partners, but after meeting across the balconies of their hotel in France, they are soon back in each other’s arms.

The play was written in a few days by Coward as a vehicle for himself as Elyot and Gertrude Lawrence. When Lawrence first saw the script, she said she had read it and there was nothing in it that couldn't be fixed. He told her the only thing that would be fixed would be her performance. Maybe that competitive nature between the two of them was the spur to Coward to create Elyot and Amanda in the first place.

This performance, though, was true to the author's intention with lively, well choreographed and, at times, what looked like dangerous fight scenes, acted wonderfully by Brokis and Willis as the leading players. Coward and Lawrence they may not have been, but they put their own neat slant on a couple of fiery, over-competitive young people in the 1930s.

There were well-structured performances by Lydea Perkins as Sibyl and Tom Berkeley as Victor, the unfortunate second partners of the two principals.

Celia Cruwys-Finnigan had a small part in the play and was also seen and heard in French costume, complete with beret, playing accordion and singing both onstage and off. It set the mood for the French locations in the play very neatly.

Perkins was also billed as choreographer and she did very well with those frightening fight scenes. The song that kept being played offstage was written by Coward and Amanda's line 'extraordinary, the potency of cheap music' didn't quite ring true as Coward's compositions have stood the test of time and are far from cheap pop.

Tam Williams' direction could not be faulted on any level.