It says everything about Noel Coward that nearly 90 years after he wrote Private Lives (in just four days) it's still making audiences chuckle.
London Classic Theatre's production brings out the best in Coward's farcical look at the lives of two wealthy 1920s couples on their ill-fated honeymoons.
The enduring beauty of the story lies in its simplicity and Michael Cabot's decision not to meddle with Coward's original is what makes this delightful production so enjoyable. One change he does make, along with many other directors, is to carve the play into two acts rather than the original three - absolutely the right decision for a modern audience.
As Cabot says in his programme notes, the lives of the idle rich were fertile fodder for Coward. What's remarkable is that fun-poking is just as funny nearly a century later.
The first act takes place entirely on the balcony of a French hotel where Sibyl and Elyot Chase (Olivia Beardsley and Jack Hardwick) are on their honeymoon and Victor and Amanda Prynne (Kieran Buckeridge and Helen Keeley) are celebrating theirs in the adjacent room.
The newly-weds are not exactly madly in love and it quickly becomes apparent that's because Elyot and Amanda are lamenting the loss of their earlier failed marriages - to each other.
When the two see each other and share a drink their feelings are rekindled and they elope to start a fresh. In the second act the action moves to a Paris apartment to see the rather volatile results of their reconciliation.
Jack Hardwick shines as entitled chauvinist Elyot with his droning condescension and short temper and the play is at its very best in the scenes with he and Helen Keeley's temperamental Amanda Prynne.
Keeley is the star of the show. Her frantic portrayal of Amanda really captures the essence of the upper class tedium at which Coward so relished poking fun.
The pair's chemistry is excellent and the preposterous love-hate nature of their relationship is brought to life with great hilarity and vigour in the second act.
Meanwhile Olivia Beardsley and Kieran Buckeridge shine too as the unexpected victims of Elyot and Amanda's amor fou. Beardsley portrays a delightfully dim Sibyl and Buckeridge excels as the jittery Victor.
The action maintains a great pace which gets ever faster and funnier as the play reaches its ludicrous conclusion.
To appreciate Coward's masterpiece truly one has to consider the period in which it was written. In fact the play was almost censored for being too risque and reviews of the day described it as 'delightfully daring'. To a 2018 audience daring it is definitely not, but entertaining it most certainly is.
Private Lives plays at the Belgrade Theatre until Saturday April 21.
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