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Play about an intimate affair by Noel Coward. With Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan.

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      12.01.2002 22:19
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      Alan Rickman is one of the UK's finest actors. He can play 'evil'- Die Hard, 'Camp'-Robin Hood or 'hopelessly romantic'- Sense And Sensibility and these are just is movie roles. The man has an excellent stage CV too. He has acted in such classics as Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Antony and Cleopatra. Put this talented man in a Noel Coward play and you should be in for a theatrical treat that rivals anything else- right? More than right- Private Lives leaves you spinning and buzzing as you leave the theatre on a real high- quite willing to back and see and it again... right away! Right.....where do I begin? Act One of this marvellous production takes the audience to a honeymoon balcony in the late 1920's. The fantastic set gives you a real sense of 'false happiness.' Deliberately garish in its design and as tacky as the cocktails that the guests are drinking- we meet the golden couple - Elyot (Rickman) and Sibyl (Emma Fielding). On the surface these newly weds seem happy. They are relaxed and seem relieved to be having a break after the stress that planning a wedding involves. But underneath the surface the dreaded "ex" word gets a mention and suddenly the relationship begins to show the strain as the past is ready to rear its ugly head. Next door- Amanda (Lindsay Duncan) is enjoying the tranquility with her new beau Victor (Adam Godley). But as you have probably guessed- Amanda is the 'ex' who is undoubtably going to cause some extra maritial arguments before the first act is over. As Elyot describes Sibyl as 'steady and sweet' you can sense that the fiery and forthright Amanda is more than a match for his sarcasm. So do the ex lovers meet up? Do the sparks fly? Are there any shades of romance? I'm not going to ruin the plot too much as the main joy of watching Private Lives is letting the actors take you on the wild and and bumpy ride ahead. The great thing
      about this dazzling production is the speed of the comic timing. As predictable as the story is- it is timeless. The in sync comic timing of such a brilliant quartet of actors means that you are left open mouthed at Noel Coward's sarcastic and hilarious dialogue. Alan Rickman revels in his role as Elyot- the dashing but unstable gent who longs to put a cat amongst the pigeons at every turn. He seems to love playing the cad with no heart and almost smiles with delight as he spits each line out to his co stars. He is more than matched by the gorgeous Lindsay Duncan as the glamourous acid tongued ex. She remains believable and retains your sympathies through her sheer guts, determination and quick fire humour. Supporting casts in big productions like this often seem weak as the stars of the show tend to overact. But not here. Emma Fielding plays her role to the hilt. Sybyl shreaks and screams but it is a credit to Fielding that she manages to win over the audience in the final act. She knowingly smiles when Elyot is being "beastly" to everyone perfectly conveying her love for her man. Adam Godley, likewise also wins you over as his love for Amanda is tinged with sadness as he knows that he cannot compete with her ex. The depth of the performances match the ever expanding set which opens with a garish honeymoon suite and ends with a relaxed bedroom oozing with detail in every corner. The stars use every inch of set literally as plates are often thrown across it! You almost end up ducking in the stalls! I found myself laughing like a hyena at many of acid tinged lines in this play. Yes, the characters are sometimes quite unlikeable. But the actors have such a ball playing them that I can safely say that I didn't dislike any of them. The age old story of not knowing what you have lost until its gone is ever relevant. Current divorce rates show that people do not sort out or talk through their marital problems only to move
      into a new relationship. Private Lives manages to reflect all of this even though it was penned in the 1920's. If you hardly get to go the theatre as you do not want to take a chance on letting £30 fly out of your pocket only to be left with an empty feeling then Private Lives is for you. It's old fashioned, great to look at, fantastically performed by a cast who love their material, packed full of beautifully written lines guaranteed to make you smile, and most of all has all the ingredients for a special night out rather than a medicore one. MORE INFO: ----------- www.whatsonstage.com TICKETS: -------- www.ticketmaster.co.uk PRICES: ------- £15- £35 (But try for the top end as alot of the humour comes from the facial expressions) VENUE: ------- Albery Theatre, West End - London BEST SEATS: ------------ Stalls Or Dress Circle (The front five rows) NEAREST TUBE: ------------- Leicester Square HURRY- IT ENDS IN SIX WEEKS! ============================ Thanks for reading, Glenn

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