Private Lives on show in stylish and sophisticated comedy at the Abbey Theatre

Rehearsals for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Rehearsals for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

A classic Noël Coward play is coming to the St Albans stage.

Private Lives, Coward’s comment on love and marriage, is one of his most brilliantly realised plays and you can see it at the Abbey Theatre in November. 

Written in the 1930s, Private Lives hilariously recounts how a long-divorced couple, Amanda Prynne and Elyot Chase, both on their respective honeymoons with new spouses, find themselves in adjacent hotel rooms and sharing the balcony.

It soon becomes clear that there’s still passion between Amanda and Elyot, considerable passion, and the chaos that ensues provides for an evening of Coward’s well-honed eccentric wit and deft comedic stagecraft.

Company of Ten cast members rehearsing Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Company of Ten cast members rehearsing Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Noël Coward played the part of Elyot Chase himself and wrote the part of Amanda Prynne for his good friend and acting partner, Gertrude Lawrence, who, legend has it, dropped significant commitments to other projects after Coward threatened to offer the part to another actress.

Elizabeth Taylor also played the role opposite Richard Burton, while Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier recorded a radio version. 

And now, the Company of Ten is following this glorious tradition of married couples playing the leading roles by casting Abbe and Mark Waghorn.

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Mark says: "Abbe and I have appeared in plays together before, but never in leading roles opposite each other, so we are relishing the opportunity." 

Regarding the role itself, he adds: "I'm really enjoying getting to know Elyot.

"Coward gives the actor the opportunity to explore the full spectrum of Elyot's character: intelligent, expressive, witty, but also aggressive, condescending and prone to jealous rages.

"With all that going on in one role, plus the fact that he has some very funny lines, it is a challenging part to play."

During rehearsals for the original production, the heated passion of the second act love scene almost didn’t get past the Lord Chamberlain who deemed it too risqué.

Rehearsals for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Rehearsal photograph for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Fortunately, the Company of Ten have no such qualms and you will be able to enjoy Coward’s unmatched comedy of manners in all its glorious detail.

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre 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.

Private Lives is coming to the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Private Lives is coming to the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Abbey Theatre

On Thursday, November 4, the Soroptimist International St Albans and District women's group presents a charity night performance of Private Lives.

Tickets cost £13 in aid of the local women’s refuge service SAHWR, plus other club charities. To book, email sistalbans@hotmail.com

Rehearsals for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Rehearsals for Private Lives, which can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. - Credit: Anne Frizell

Private Lives can be seen at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

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


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