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If you're looking for a night of flawless, sensational, saucy and divine entertainment, then look no further than the Torch Theatre's production of Noël Coward's Private Lives directed by Chelsey Gillard. Gillard's directorial debut at the Torch Theatre is nothing short of amazing, flawlessly blending witty physical humour with Coward's iconic satirical words.

There's a reason Noël Coward never goes out of fashion- his plays are just so deliciously good. Amazingly, although written almost 90 years ago it's still so lively, clever, witty, acerbic, and remains utterly relevant. Today, the newspapers are bursting with scandals and as a society, we devour the details of peoples Private Lives. The way these characters are written provides much-needed entertainment as the three-act play takes the audience on a rollercoaster romp, featuring an air of sophistication, cocktails, and the looming spectre of domestic violence and co-dependency.

The play follows the story of two ex-spouses, Elyot and Amanda, who coincidentally end up honeymooning with their new spouses Sibyl and Victor in adjacent rooms at a French hotel. As the two former lovers reconnect, their passion reignites. The ensuing chaos, as well as the witty, dark, satirical dialogue of campiness fun, are sprinkled throughout, which drew me in and kept me engaged from start to finish.

The cast is simply sensational, each embodying their characters with remarkable accuracy. The chemistry between the two lead actors, when portraying Amanda and Elyot, is particularly impressive, and their witty banter and repartee are a joy to watch. With just four characters and a maid, in only two locations, it is very much Coward’s script on show and heavy leg work for our lead couple. Claire Cage is Amanda, potentially one of my favourite female roles in theatre. Androgynous, comedically immoral, and panther-like. Cage’s interpretation has flair with an air of finesse and sophistication. sublimely good, faultlessly funny, quick to ignite and utterly committed. Her best moments are the later scenes where Amanda and Elyot (François Pandolfo) ricochet off each other. They have a blinding spark together and, although in a deeply unhealthy relationship, are engaging to watch. François plays the suave eccentric British gentleman spot-on, confident in this controversial role: unreliably mischievous, with such a flamboyant flavour!

It doesn't end there. Paisley Jackson as Sibyl is sensational and just brilliant making her Welsh debut, truly making the role her own as is Jude Deeno who completes the quartet with another victorious performance as Victor. Giving the character an energetic quality and full of charm. As I previously mentioned in my first impressions review all four actors have given such standout performances as each portray the complexity of their characters with skill and nuance which was truly remarkable.

The lavish sets and elegant costumes designed by Kevin Jenkins truly transport you to the decadent era of the 1930s. From the opulent furnishings of the Parisian hotel suite Balconies to the stunning lavish Paris apartment, every detail is perfectly crafted to create a truly immersive experience. The Torch Theatre itself is a stunning venue, and the intimate setting adds to the overall atmosphere of the performance. The lighting by Ceri James and the sound design is also top-notch, perfectly complementing the action on stage.

Director Chelsey Gillard warrants a standing ovation for her treatment of the material. Her direction is crisp and concise but allows the energy to flow. It helps having such a cast of this quality but she should be proud of this play. Gillard chooses to confront the ugliness at the heart of this brittle comedy rather than shying away from it. The result is an extraordinarily powerful examination of a relationship that has turned sour and is played out with mesmerising intensity. I and fellow reviewer Val Ruloff have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Private Lives at the Torch and we feel confident in saying that we would gladly like to revisit this fabulous production.

Overall, Private Lives is an absolute must-see for fans of Noel Coward and lovers of great theatre alike. With its flawless direction, sensational cast, and divine production values, this is one show


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