Private Lives

I was only here for Nigel Havers. I’m not sure this play has aged well. Is it funny to laugh at domestic violence or watch a couple beat each other? Even worse, we inhale when a man slaps a woman, but cheer when a woman assaults a man cos ‘empowered’. What a world!

We’re meant to admire this free thinking couple, but they are infact self-absorbed and self-centred. When the divorced, now newly married but not to each other, couple spot each other on the balcony, it is really funny. It is also very funny that they want to run away from each other…to the same place. And then together flee their new partners on their honeymoons, after both causing hysterical and baffling angry word laden scenes, leaving those left behind to awkwardly sip cocktails on their respective balconies and wonder where their missing partners are…

And all tied up with sophisticated meanness, quick fire wit, laced with a background of cocktails and music appreciation. The second and third acts are equally cynical and amusing, as the divorced, now reunited, couple try to control their words, tempers and fists. Again though is domestic violence or destruction funny? Then they are found by their abandoned partners, who’ve arrived to confront them; appear to have reconciled; before the abandoned spouses degenerate into the kind of shocking scene they want to avoid, leaving their unrepentant spouses to sneak away with their suitcases for pastures new and presumably a new fight.

The only diverse casting is in a maid, and whilst the role is entirely done in French and with great dignity; again I’m not sure….But sadly probably would have reflected the era.

These are meaty parts, but what are we meant to make of it today — having seen all we’ve seen? Am I really meant to want to be Amanda and Eliot (Elyot?), louche, decadent, angry — who seem to care for nothing or feel nothing, but their own self-absorption and unimpressed weariness at the beauties and enjoyments of life. It’s all a bit King Solomon — you can have it all and not enjoy any of it.

The Wildean acid politeness and putting a cracking veneer of mundane small talk over broiling emotions and social embarrassment is very well done. But should I really admire someone who deliberately damages property or another who drags her husband’s head across a piano?

The moral is that none of us are better than each other, and that life is a bit of a meaningless game, with disputes observed like a tennis match, and that social politeness is empty. Whilst it is witty, I can’t help thinking of all the domestic violence and abuse which took place during Lockdowns, and if we should really be laughing and do infact either need to reinterpret this play, or retire it.

The endearments of ‘darling’ and ‘sweet’ are amusing, and the play holds nothing back, laughing at marriage, belief in anything, polite behaviour and sexuality. But can I really respect someone who tells their partner to be free in their sexual choices and do what they want, so long as they love them best?!!!! Seriously?!!!

Great to see an age appropriate couple — Nigel Havers has a nasty mouth and temper, but can also play jazz piano and style a dressing gown! Patricia Hodge dances divinely, but not sure about the singing. Natalie Walter takes Sybil to new levels with impressive dimensions of high pitched screaming and outrage, and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s nice Victor also has substance. The strength of this play is in the cast (Havers-Hodges are marvellously dissipated, living just for themselves and their wants at that time, and their abandoned spouses fully rounded), but a play about irresponsible domestic violence and people who don’t believe in anything but themselves sits uncomfortably today.




By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....

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Susan Tailby

Susan Tailby

By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....

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