If you want something done well, get an expert to do it! The Therry Dramatic Society obviously use this maxim when wanting to stage anything dealing with Noel Coward: they go to Adelaide’s Coward maestro, Barry Hill.
Their latest production of Private Lives has all the humour and Britishness of Mr Coward, plus the deft touch and comedy of Hill all over it.
The play, written by Coward especially for himself and his great friend Gertrude Lawrence, is well known for a number of things: concern from the British Censors over the fight scene in Act Two; the now famous opening balcony scene; and two of the playwright’s most memorable quips – “Oh, don’t quibble, Sybil” and “A women should be struck regularly, like a gong”.
Hill’s version is absolutely delightful, hitting every laugh and languishing beautifully in the Thirties. He certainly knows the style and class required to successfully pull off a classic period comic piece such as this.
Once again, Richard Parkhill uses an unobtrusive lighting design to highlight Patsy Thomas’ pleasing and workable sets.
In the Lawrence star role of Amanda, Dianne K Lang gives a performance of stellar proportions with spot-on gestures and intonations: she claims the stage as her own whenever present and is a joy to watch. John Koch does well in the Coward role of Elyot, channelling the playwright extremely well in parts, but not quite managing the suaveness required in other parts.
Brad Martin is excellent as the terribly British stiff upper-lipped Victor; and Allison Scharber, with a nicely clipped English accent, gives yet another strong performance as Victor’s younger trophy wife, Sybil. Why the costumier decided to make her look like the Queen Mother however, is a huge mystery and an even bigger mistake.
Mention must also be made of Tamara Bennetts’ very polished cameo as French maid, Louise.
One little niggle with the production is the loudness of the opening music – although needed, it is too distracting at its present level.
This Private Lives proves to be a good, entertaining evening at the theatre
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: The Arts Theatre 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 22-31 August 2013
Duration: 2 hours including interval
Tickets: $11.00 – $25.00
Bookings: 8410 5515 (Mon-Fri 10am to 5pm), or through BASS and VenueTix
Photo: John Koch (Elyot) and Dianne k Lang (Amanda) in Noel Coward’s Private Lives