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Dialogue sparkles in witty Coward comedy

Private Lives, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, to April 21.

What are the chances of finding yourself on an adjacent balcony to your ex-spouse while on your second honeymoon? Very likely it would seem, if you are a character in this iconic Noel Coward play from 1930.

In the opening scene we find ourselves witnessing the mounting tensions between two newlywed couples on a moonlit hotel balcony in the seaside town of Deauville. Finding yourself in a room next to your ex is never going to be the best start for a marriage and sure enough, it isn’t too long before the previously divorced couple, Amanda played by Helen Keeley, and Elyot (Gareth Bennett-Ryan), are together again and declaring their undying love for each other. The second half of the play is set in a luxurious Parisian apartment where the sparring couple continue with their tempestuous relationship. Not surprisingly, they are pursued by their rejected and disgruntled spouses (Sybil and Victor played by Olivia Beardsley and Paul Sandys).

The four actors give energetic performances of love and hate in equal measure and Coward’s fast paced witty dialogue sparkles. Squeaky Sibyl proves to be more than just a timid wife and the final explosive argument with Victor in the last scene is a wonderful mix of tautness and comedy.

The set designs by Frankie Bradshaw manage to create an opulent French feel and create the perfect atmosphere for the continuing battles and sexual chemistry between the four main characters. Coward’s play is a wonderfully comic portrayal of dysfunctional marital relationships.

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