In October London Classic Theatre present Noel Coward’s classic battle of the sexes Private Lives.
1930. The South of France. Two newly-married couples occupy adjoining honeymoon suites in the same hotel. As a distant orchestra plays, Sibyl gazes adoringly at charismatic husband Elyot, while Victor admires his new wife, the vivacious and sophisticated Amanda.
Champagne flows and the sea shimmers in the moonlight as the newlyweds prepare for the evening ahead. But when Amanda overhears a familiar voice singing a forgotten song, an old spark reignites, with spectacular consequences.
Artistic Director London Classic Theatre Michael Cabot sat down with us to talk about the show, the influence of Noel Coward on the company and theatre in general as well as upcoming projects for the company.
Hi Michael, Thank you for your time. We are looking forward to welcoming London Classic Theatre to the Wyvern in October. Who are London Classic Theatre and what work do you make?
We are a touring company, working on the No. 1, middle-scale and repertory circuit. We produce classic and modern classic plays. As Artistic Director, I have always tried to produce a blend of comedy and strong, challenging drama for audiences in the regions. We often produce well-known plays, so my intention is always to bring the work to life with freshness and vitality. I always tell my actors that it’s important to start the first day of rehearsal as if the script in front of you has never been staged before.
What is the story of Private Lives and what can audiences expect from the show?
Private Lives is a classic battle of the sexes. It’s about a divorced couple, Amanda and Elyot, who have both remarried and find themselves staying in adjoining honeymoon suites in the same hotel in France. Inevitably, they meet again and sparks immediately fly. Amanda is something of a ‘diva’, unpredictable at the best of times and her marriage to Elyot was one of extremes, so things get rather complicated! Coward was a master of fast-paced dialogue and witty repartee. It’s a terrifically funny play with some memorable one-liners. We are setting it exactly in period, so it is lovely to be re-creating the glamorous 1930s.
How influential has the work of Noël Coward been for you and theatre in general?
Noël Coward was a prolific writer, actor, director, songwriter and film producer. He was also a successful cabaret artiste and a respected painter. He was the dominant force in the West End and Broadway before the Second World War. In the 1950s and 1960s, despite no longer being seen by critics as fashionable, his plays continued to be popular and commercially successful around the world. Not only is the sheer volume of his work enormously impressive but, as time has gone on, his reputation has grown. Coward considered himself to be a showman first and foremost – he had an innate sense of style and panache. Elegance was key to his work, but there was much more to him. His skill as a master of comic dialogue is second to none and now widely appreciated. I’m very excited about directing Private Lives. For many people, myself included, the play is his signature work. I’m aiming to keep it fast-paced and punchy, as Coward himself wanted the play to be seen – when he first went to Broadway, he was enchanted with the speed of American life and wanted to bring that energy to the West End.
What future projects are you working on?
As well as my work for London Classic Theatre, I do a certain amount of freelance directing. Over the last couple years, I have collaborated with playwright Henry Naylor on three of his new plays. The Collector toured the UK last year and I recently opened Borders at the Edinburgh Fringe. Henry’s play Angel is being staged at the Arcola Theatre in mid-September, so it’s a busy time. We have also started booking our autumn 2018 touring production. We are producing Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should, a play I originally directed in 2000. It’s a terrific family drama about four generations of women and the changes in their lives through the last century.
Private Lives will be at the Wyvern Theatre from Thu 5 to Sat 7 October.
For more information and to buy tickets please visit: http://bit.ly/PrivateLives17