Theatre - Private Lives at the Gate: 'Over-the-top hilarity undercut with honest reflection on relationships'
Private Lives, Gate Theatre, Dublin
Noel Coward’s comedy runs as an interregnum show between the departure of Michael Colgan and new director Selina Cartmell’s soon-to-be-announced programme. This production is max-throttle Gate as we have known it, with lavish design values, a single minded pursuit of comedy and entertainment, and a dash of decadence.Coward’s much-revived play, originally produced in 1930, is cleverly constructed.
Amanda and Elyot are divorced and on their second wedding celebrations. They coincidentally end up in adjacent rooms in their honeymoon hotel in the Deauville resort on the northern French coast.
These two alphas have each acquired a mouse as a second spouse. They may have formally parted from each other, but when they meet on the hotel balcony, there is still a spark: in due course, sparks fly.
There is a delicious recklessness in Patrick Mason’s direction, with big performances and powerful set pieces. The physicality is brilliantly handled, as the actors take lumps out of each other. There’s biting.
Francis O’Connor’s sumptuous modernist sets and elegant costumes add another layer to the characterization. Amanda’s bold carnality is reflected in her apartment, and Elyot’s past love is gently conjured through the long gauze window drape.
Peter Gaynor and Lorna Quinn play the unfortunate new spouses beautifully as the sad comedy of little people. Shane O’Reilly and Rebecca O’Mara shine as the terrible couple locked in love and combat, creating a convincing intimacy amidst the mayhem.
For all its over-the-top hilarity, the play gets at something true about relationships and life: how difficult it can be for two strong minds to get along.