Noel Coward’s lightly subversive comedy still packs a delicate punch. Amanda and Elyot are a divorced couple who rekindle their combative passion while on honeymoon with their respective spouses.
When Amanda’s fogeyish new husband Victor remarks, “I’m glad I’m normal”, she replies, “What an odd thing to be glad about”, neatly conveying Coward’s mischievous tone.
If the urbane Nigel Havers and the beguiling Patricia Hodge are unusually mature for their roles as the heedlessly selfish Elyot and Amanda, they use it to their advantage in Christopher Luscombe’s elegant if conventional production.
Having abandoned their bewildered spouses (Natalie Walter’s airheaded ingenue Sibyl and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s Victor), they set up in Amanda’s Parisian apartment to inflame and irritate each other all over again in the last chance saloon of their lives.
The first half, set on adjoining balconies of the Normandy hotel where Amanda first spies ex-husband Elyot in her compact mirror, is a light-fingered farce of conspicuously unlikely coincidence.
The second act in Amanda’s glamorous Paris apartment is beautifully contrasted in the blood-red and gold Deco design that reflects the languid decadence and impetuous passion of their relationship.
It’s waspishly funny and a little slow in patches, but the comedy timing, particularly Hodge’s, is impeccable. Good fun.
Private Lives, Ambassadors Theatre until November 25 Tickets: 03330 096 690