Private Lives

A comedy by Noel Coward. Having divorced five years ago, Elyot and Amanda are aghast to find themselves sharing adjacent suites whilst both honeymooning with their new spouses. But nostalgia, music and moonlight soon enflame old passions and soon reminds them of why they fell in love, but also why they couldn't live together... A comic masterpiece of modern love and second chances.

"I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives"

Phoenix Theatre 1930 - Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence

Regent Theatre 1931 - Bernard Lee and Betty Bowden

Apollo / Fortune Theatres 1944 - John Clements and Kay Hammond

Duke of York's Theatre 1963 - Edward de Souza and Rosemary Martin

Queen's / Globe (Gielgud) Theatres 1972 - Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith

Duchess Theatre 1980 - Michael Jayston and Maria Aitken

Aldwych Theatre 1990 - Keith Baxter and Joan Collins

National Theatre 1999 - Anton Lesser and Juliet Stevenson

Albery Theatre 2001 - Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan

Vaudeville Theatre 2010 - Matthew Macfadyen and Kim Cattrall

Gielgud Theatre 2013 - Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor

Noel Coward's other London theatre plays include A Song At Twilight; Relative Values; Semi-Monde; Blithe Spirit; Volcano; Present Laughter; Design for Living; The Vortex; Star Quality; Fallen Angels; Brief Encounter; and Hay Fever.

Original West End Production 1930 - Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence

Opened 24 September 1930, Closed 20 December 1930 at the Phoenix Theatre

The cast featured Noel Coward as 'Elyot Chase', Adrianne Allen as 'Sibyl Chase', Laurence Olivier as 'Victor Prynne' and Gertrude Lawrence as 'Amanda Prynne' with Everley Gregg as 'Louise'.

Directed by Noel Coward with designs by Gladys Calthrop.

This production opened the newly built Phoenix Theatre in the Charing Cross Road.

London Revival 1931 - Bernard Lee and Betty Bowden

Opened 31 October 1931, Closed 6 November 1931 at the Regent Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured Bernard Lee as 'Elyot Chase', Joan Kingdon as 'Sibyl Chase', Douglas Phillips as 'Victor Prynne' and Betty Bowden as 'Amanda Prynne' with Dorothy Dewhurst as 'Louise'

Directed by Ellis J Preston.

Presented by the London Repertory Company for a 'twice-nightly' week-long season.

The Regent Theatre was a 1,380-seater theatre located in the Euston Road, opposite St Pancras Railway Station.

1st West End London Revival 1944 - John Clements and Kay Hammond

Opened 1 November 1944, Closed 8 June 1946 at the Apollo Theatre
Transferred 10 June 1946, Closed 20 July 1946 at the Fortune Theatre

The original cast featured John Clements as 'Elyot Chase', Peggy Simpson as 'Sibyl Chase', Raymond Huntley as 'Victor Prynne' and Kay Hammond as 'Amanda Prynne' with Yvonne Andre as 'Louise'.

Directed by Victor Weston with designs by Gladys Calthrop.

Hugh Sinclair took over the role of 'Elyot' from the end of November 1945 through to the end of the run.

Googie Withers took over the role of 'Amanda' from the end of November 1945 up to June 1946, with Helen Christie taking over for the last few weeks of the run.

2nd West End London Revival 1963 - Edward de Souza and Rosemary Martin

Opened 24 April 1963, Closed 22 June 1963 at the Hampstead Theatre
Transferred 3 July 1963, Closed 4 January 1964 at the Duke of York's Theatre

The cast featured Edward de Souza as 'Elyot Chase', Sarah Harter as 'Sibyl Chase', Roger Booth as 'Victor Prynne' and Rosemary Martin as 'Amanda Prynne' with Bridget Turner as 'Louise'.

Directed by James Roose-Evans with designs by Christian Kurvenal.

This production was presented as a 'modern dress version'.

3rd West End London Revival 1972 - Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith

Previewed 14 September 1972, Opened 21 September 1972, Closed 30 June 1973 at the Queen's Theatre (now Sondheim Theatre)
Transferred 2 July 1973, Closed 26 January 1974 at the Globe Theatre

The original cast up to Saturday 28 July 1973 featured Robert Stephens as 'Elyot Chase' (up to Saturday 14 April 1973), John Standing as 'Elyot Chase' (from Monday 16 April 1973), Polly Adams as 'Sibyl Chase', James Villiers as 'Victor Prynne' and Maggie Smith as 'Amanda Prynne' with Cari Hedderwick as 'Louise'.

The second cast from Monday 30 July 1973 to Saturday 26 January 1974 featured John Standing as 'Elyot Chase', Pinkie Johnstone as 'Sibyl Chase', Geoffrey Palmer as 'Victor Prynne', and Jill Bennett as 'Amanda Prynne'.

Directed by John Gielgud with sets by Anthony Powell, costumes by Beatrice Dawson and lighting by Joe Davis.

At the time of this production Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith had been married to each other for five years, and would divorce a couple of years after leaving this production. Interestingly some 41 year later, Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith's son, Toby Stephens, would play the role of 'Eylot' opposite his own wife playing 'Sibyl' in the 2013 West End revival.

It was during the run of this production that, on 26 March 1973, Noel Coward suddenly died at his home in Jamaica - that same evening as a mark of respect, the lights on the Queen's Theatre, where this production was playing at the time, where dimmed during the evening.

4th West End London Revival 1980 - Michael Jayston and Maria Aitken

Previewed 5 March 1980, Opened 6 March 1980, Closed 5 April 1980 at the Greenwich Theatre
Previewed 15 April 1980, Opened 16 April 1980, Closed 10 January 1981 at the Duchess Theatre

The cast featured Michael Jayston as 'Elyot Chase', Jenny Quayle as 'Sibyl Chase', Ian Collier as 'Victor Prynne' and Maria Aitken as 'Amanda Prynne' with Lesley Gregson as 'Louise'.

Directed by Alan Strachan with designs by Peter Rice and lighting by Nick Chetton.

This production was promoted as being the "50th Anniversary Production".

5th West End London Revival 1990 - Keith Baxter and Joan Collins

Previewed 18 September 1990, Opened 19 September 1990, Closed 26 January 1991 at the Aldwych Theatre

The cast featured Keith Baxter as 'Elyot Chase', Sara Crowe as 'Sibyl Chase', Edward Duke as 'Victor Prynne' and Joan Collins as 'Amanda Prynne' with Mary Pegler as 'Louise'.

Directed by Tim Luscombe with designs by Carl Toms and lighting by Leonard Tucker.

London Revival 1999 - Anton Lesser and Juliet Stevenson

Previewed 7 May 1999, Opened 13 May 1999, Closed 6 September 1999 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Anton Lesser as 'Elyot Chase', Rebecca Saire as 'Sibyl Chase', Dominic Rowan as 'Victor Prynne' and Juliet Stevenson as 'Amanda Prynne' with Darlene Johnson as 'Louise'.

Directed by Philip Franks with choreography by Marguerite Porter, designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Howard Harrison, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Adam Rudd.

6th West End London Revival 2001 - Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan

Previewed 21 September 2001, Opened 4 October 2001, Closed 3 March 2002 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The cast featured Alan Rickman as 'Elyot Chase', Emma Fielding as 'Sibyl Chase', Adam Godley as 'Victor Prynne' and Lindsay Duncan as 'Amanda Prynne' with Alex Belcourt as 'Louise'.

Directed by Howard Davies with choreography by Quinny Sacks, designs by Tim Hatley, costumes by Jenny Beavan, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Paddy Cunneen and sound by John Leonard.

"[Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman] are revelatory. To watch their body language at every point is to believe the intimacy and experience that this Amanda and this Elyot share. And to hear them is better yet. They're revelatory because they've dared to reconceive that whole genre of performance style known as Noel Coward style. Coward without camp!... Duncan and Rickman, however, play it for real... A bravissimo to Howard Davies for reconceiving Coward so gloriously, and another to Coward for being so beautifully reinterpretable. Just what the West End needs right now. Look back in laughter." The Financial Times

"Howard Davies’s production, though often amusing, is relatively so downbeat that maybe it’s intentional. Here’s the elegiac tale of two people who have spent five years apart, made emotional compromises, feel rather older... [Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan] don’t make us feel, as they must, that the one thing they find harder than living apart is living together... Rickman in particular finds excitement hard to generate nowadays... Duncan fares better, but not a lot. Her Amanda, it seems, is a woman who has made up her mind to settle for second best, only to find an old emotional addiction or allergy uncomfortably stirring... But let me add that last night’s audience laughed often and even applauded Tim Hatley’s hotel balcony and posh-Paris sets. They at least were full-bodied enough to deserve it." The Times

"Noel Coward's miraculously constructed comedy, Private Lives, as I've never seen it. No period posturing with cigarette holders, no cut-glass accents, no skidding across a shiny, scintillating surface, but deep, penetrating insight into the relationship between middleaged lovers who can't live together and can't live apart. Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman are sensationally good as Amanda and Elyot, the divorced couple who meet on the balcony of the hotel where each is honeymooning with a new spouse. The electricity which crackled between these two in Les Liaisons Dangereuses is here more highly charged, more explosive than ever. Now older, sexier, more sophisticated, more subtle, under the assured direction of the great Howard Davies, they shake all the artifice from Coward's familiar lines and bring the play to fiery, funny, profoundly felt, startlingly spontaneous life... Emma Fielding and Adam Godley provide the perfect complement as the starchy, dull and decent new spouses. A brilliantly lit, powerfully illuminating, definitive revival. Book immediately." The Mail on Sunday

Private Lives in London at the Albery Theatre previewed from 21 September 2001, opened on 4 October 2001, and closed on 3 March 2002

7th West End London Revival 2010 - Matthew Macfadyen and Kim Cattrall

Previewed 24 February 2010, Opened 3 March 2010, Closed 1 May 2010 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The cast featured Matthew Macfadyen as 'Elyot Chase', Lisa Dillon as 'Sibyl Chase', Simon Paisley Day as 'Victor Prynne' and Kim Cattrall as 'Amanda Prynne' with Caroline Lena Olsson as 'Louise'.

Directed by Richard Eyre with choreography by Scarlett Mackmin, designs by Rob Howell, lighting by David Howe and sound by Jason Barnes.

Kim Cattrall's recent London theatre credits include Sir Peter Hall's revival of Brian Clark's play Whose Life is it Anyway? (Harold Pinter Theatre 2005). Richard Eyre's recent West End theatre directing credits include Simon Gray'sThe Last Cigarette (Trafalgar Studios 2009), Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (Duke of York's Theatre 2005) and the stage musical Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre 2004).

"Coward's miraculously constructed Private Lives is a stunning succession of stiletto-pointed retorts that should be learnt by heart so as never to be lost for a perfectly formed snap, with added crackle and pop. Richard Eyre's fresh, funny, occasionally ferocious revival has us hearing them hilariously a new: 'She had the nastiest looking [long pause] hairbrush I have ever seen.' This is Coward firing on all cylinders, vicious sparks flying... Kim Cattrall, gorgeously glamorous in a gold gown, is Cowardesque to a nearly perfectly annunciated tee, a rare achievement for an American (even one born in Liverpool). Matthew Macfadyen is anything but. Jowly, with hair as short as a squaddie and vowels more jam-jar than cut-glass, in his silk pyjamas he looks rugger player chunky. In other words, he has much more muscle and far less silkiness than your regular Elyot. But as a result, this character's inner thug emerges to the full... The jilted spouses couldn't be better. Simon Paisley Day's prissy, pipesucking Victor is such a stickler for form that even when driven into a state of neurasthenic twitchiness and camping in a stranger's drawing room, he presses his trousers overnight in the lid of the grand piano. Lisa Dillon's Sibyl is prettily pert and perfectly priggish on the outside, but that sweet centre is actually pure poison. Delicious." The Mail on Sunday

"This production has a rather workmanlike, repertory company feel to it. But it just about works thanks to some good humoured if not especially sophisticated playing from its stars Matthew Macfadyen and Kim Cattrall... It is, of course, one of the Master's most-quoted works and the problem with words that have become quite so familiar is that unless they are delivered with some panache or, at least, meticulous care, they start to sound camp and arch. Here they do mostly sound camp and arch, but nothing, it seems, can ever obscure how beautifully written and structured a play this is and what a devastating critique it amounts to of relationships. The play may have sparkled a lot more in the past, but it remains a gem." The Sunday Telegraph

Private Lives in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 24 February 2010, opened on 3 March 2010 and closed on 1 May 2010.

8th West End London Revival 2013 - Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor

Previewed 22 June 2013, Opened 3 July 2013, Closed 21 September 2013 at the Gielgud Theatre in London

The cast featured Toby Stephens as 'Elyot Chase', Anna-Louise Plowman as 'Sibyl Chase', Anthony Calf as 'Victor Prynne' and Anna Chancellor as 'Amanda Prynne' with Sue Kelvin as 'Louise'.

Directed by Jonathan Kent with choreography by Denni Sayers, designs by Anthony Ward, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Matthew Scott, and sound by Paul Groothuis.

Toby Stephens is the son of Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens who themselves had played the role of 'Elyot' and 'Amanada' opposite each other in the 1972 West End revival. Interestingly Toby Stephens' character 'Eylot' is married to 'Sibyl' who, in this revival was played by his real-life wife, Anna-Louise Plowman.

This stage production comes into London's West End following a successful run at the Minerva Theatre at the Chichester Festival Theatre in East Sussex from September to October 2012.

Toby Stephens' West End credits include Tom Stoppard's play The Real Thing (Old Vic Theatre 2010) and William Wycherley's comedy The Country Wife directed by Jonathan Kent (Haymarket Theatre 2007). Anna Chancellor London theatre credits include, most recently, the Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version and David Hare's The South Downs 'double-bill' (Harold Pinter Theatre 2012). Jonathan Kent's recent London stage directing credits include the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd starring Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton (Adelphi Theatre 2012), Edward Bond's The Sea starring Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Marcia Warren (Haymarket Theatre 2008), Marguerite the new musical starring Rithie Henshall and written by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Michel Legrand and Herbert Kretzmer based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas (Haymarket Theatre 2008) and Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Bob Hoskins (Playhouse Theatre 2005).

"Jonathan Kent's scintillating and sexy revival of Noël Coward's sharpest, most piercing portrait of a marriage drains every word of its comic and dramatic potential. And at such a lick that it's done and dusted in less than two blissfully funny hours. The casting is perfect. Chancellor's voluptuous, vivacious Amanda is as untameable and passionate as her unruly red mop of hair. She towers over her ex-husband, Elyot, another redhead (Toby Stephens). The well-sculpted, dishy Stephens, so like his mother Maggie Smith, is hugely attractive but wittier and warmer than the flippant smoothie that Elyot so often is... The show belongs to Chancellor and Stephens in the most scorchingly sexy, intensely connected performances in London." The Mail on Sunday

"This exquisite comedy about a couple who can't live with each other but can't live without each other is all about the pairing. Noel Coward wrote it for himself and Gertrude Lawrence, where the chemistry may not have been sexual but it certainly fizzed. Another production starred real-life husband and wife Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, who had divorced by the time it went to Broadway so he dropped out. This crackling revival, directed by Jonathan Kent and transferring from Chichester, stars the latter couple's son in the best performance I've seen him give. Toby Stephens has never been a charming actor - the curl of his lip is too sneery for that. But his natural swagger and air of rakish superiority are perfect for the caddish Elyot Chase, who turns up on honeymoon in Deauville to find his ex-wife Amanda doing exactly the same thing across the balcony... In Anna Chancellor he has the perfect opposite number... These two are amoral, ruthless and utterly made for each other... Cantering along at just two hours on Anthony Ward's glorious sets the production takes the drama's darker undercurrents briskly in its stride." The Daily Express

"The casting is just about paradisiac: Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens are superbly matched as the two principals in Noël Coward's most perfect confection. Moreish and sponge-cake-light, the comedy conceals razor blades, and the leads locate the hurt hidden at its core... When Chancellor and Stephens are lolling around in their pyjamas on Anthony Ward's art-deco set, you don't want the night to end." The Sunday Times (Chichester 2012)

Private Lives in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 22 June 2013, opened on 3 July 2013 and closed on 21 September 2013