'Uncomfortable misunderstandings' on stage at St Albans' Abbey Theatre sophisticated comedy of manners

Noёl Coward’s Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Noёl Coward’s Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Members of St Albans' Company of Ten are pulling out all the comedy stops with their upcoming production of Noёl Coward’s witty masterpiece Private Lives.

Elyot and Amanda’s passionately stormy marriage has been over for five years but they are about to come far too close for comfort when, honeymooning with their new spouses, they discover that they are staying in adjacent rooms in the same hotel.

Cue lots of very uncomfortable misunderstandings in this sophisticated comedy of manners.

You can see Noёl Coward’s Private Lives at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

You can see Noёl Coward’s Private Lives at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

First produced in 1930, the play has lost none of its charm and humour and director Chris Bramwell is delighted to be at the helm of this production.

“There are many good playwrights. Noёl Coward is one of the greatest. His plays have real staying power because the characters are so fascinating and beautifully drawn.

"His work stands the test of time because, although firmly set in his world of 1930’s England, they hold up a mirror to many of the Victorian moral values that Coward found absurd, while also looking forward to a time of greater diversity and inclusion."

Noёl Coward’s Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Noёl Coward’s Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Chris continued: “This is notable in the two central female characters in Private Lives.

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"These are anything but ciphers and give as good as they get.

"One might expect that of Amanda, who is based firmly on Coward's great friend and fellow actor Gertrude Lawrence, but Sybil, the far more 'traditional' female in this play, also proves to be much stronger and more forthright than one might expect.

“This play was written in a time of great national uncertainty with the country still recovering from the trauma of World War One, the rampant rise of fascism, economic uncertainty and hardship.

"The 1920s were the decade of the flapper, the Charleston, the general strike and the Wall Street crash.

“Our country today has just emerged from a long period of necessary isolation and is still facing uncertainties.

"I want this production to really be an uplifting and experience.

"At its heart this play has a boundless sense of fun and many acute observations about the way we all behave when stricken by 'love'!”

Noёl Coward’s Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Noёl Coward’s witty masterpiece Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre's main stage from Friday, November 5 to Saturday, November 13 at 8pm, with a matinee on November 7 at 2.30pm.

To book tickets, go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

There are still a few precautions to observe for your own safety and that of others.

The St Albans venue encourages all customers to wear a face covering while in the theatre, unless exempt.

For most performances, seats will be on sale in every row, but groups will be separated by one seat.

There will also be one performance with additional social distancing on Thursday, November 11, with alternate rows on sale for those who are still anxious about being in crowded spaces.

At this performance, it will be mandatory to wear a face covering.

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