Brilliant writing leaves audiences on their feet at Private Lives

Dugald Bruce Lockhart and Natalie Walter in Private Lives (Picture: Tristram Kenton)
Dugald Bruce Lockhart and Natalie Walter in Private Lives (Picture: Tristram Kenton)

WHATEVER you do, do not write Private Lives off as simply a period drama, you’ll be missing out

That’s the message from two of the stars of the show which is currently on at The Lowry.

It may have been written more than 90 years ago, but Noel Coward’s dazzling comic masterpiece about a couple who were once married to each other and find themselves in adjoining rooms while on honeymoon with their new partners remains as relevant as ever.

“The audiences on this tour have been amazing,” said Natalie Walter, who plays Sibyl. “On some nights it feels like we were the Rolling Stones, the whole audience is whooping and standing up at the end which is absolutely incredible.”

Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, who plays Victor in the show agrees.

“I’ve been in many what you would call straight plays rather than a musical and I’ve never stood at the curtain call and witnessed such a response as we’re getting every night,” he said. “It’s a bit like feeling what Take That must have felt - to have an audience being so demonstrative is amazing. But then it is so brilliantly written. Noel Coward puts you on this rollercoaster as an actor. It’s part thriller, part comedy and ultimately ends as a farce and it’s all contained within 90 minutes.”

Natalie added: “I think people see Noel Coward and have preconceived ideas about Private Lives. Some perhaps expect it to be like a pantomime or simply a period piece but because it has got so many comic twists and is such fun it really engages them Honestly it makes people so happy.

“Also even now, after all these years, it feels so fresh and so relevant. It is so exciting to perform. You could never get bored as a performer, it is a real challenge every night. Brilliant writing never gets boring and I don’t think I ever want to finish this, it has been so enjoyable.”

Private Lives stars two great names of British theatre - Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers as Amanda and Elyot.

Patrician Hodge and Nigel Havers in Private Lives at The Lowry (Picture: Tristram Kenton)
Patrician Hodge and Nigel Havers in Private Lives at The Lowry (Picture: Tristram Kenton)

Patrician Hodge and Nigel Havers in Private Lives at The Lowry (Picture: Tristram Kenton)

“I was lucky enough to work with Patricia in Noises Off,” said Natalie, “and she’s amazing. Being on stage with her is like getting a masterclass every night; she’s just a brilliant actress.

“And Nigel is just the same. I’ve not worked with him before but he was so friendly from the outset and on stage he has such presence. I really do feel privileged to be in this show with them.”

When it was first staged Amanda and Elyot were very much bright young things but Dugald believes that by having Patricia and Nigel in the roles adds an added dimension to the whole production.

“I’m pretty sure Noel Coward envisaged it being performed in years to come with actors who were older,” he said. “I think for a lot of the audience, it adds an extra resonance to the whole piece. It makes the whole thing more realistic and in some ways just makes it a bigger play.”

TV audiences may recognise Natalie either for her work in the children’s favourite Horrible Histories or from the award-winning drama series I May Destroy You.

“That was just a really cool thing to be part of,” she said.

Surprisingly she sees many similarities between the hard-hitting drama written by Michaela Coel and Private Lives.

“Like Michaela, Noel Coward wasn’t afraid to talk about things which people didn’t want to talk about,” she said. “He wasn’t afraid to shock people and when it was written Private Lives was seen to be shocking. Modern audiences won’t be shocked but they will still find so much to engage with.

“It’s very funny and there are loads of great jokes and witty one-liners that stand the test of time. Coward is a master of plot and there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep audience intrigued and engaged. Most of all he is really sharp at observing people. The characters are memorable and he deals with timeless themes which keeps everything so relevant.”

“It is such a beautifully written piece,” said Dugald. “It just feels so contemporary and audiences are simply loving it.”

Private Lives, the Lowry, Salfrod Quays, until Saturda. Details from