Noel Coward’s 1930’s play hits Oldham Coliseum. The divorced couple Elyot and Amanda are honeymooners with their new respective spouses when they meet again cocktail swilling on the balcony. It takes all of five minutes for them to realise their erred ways and to escape the hotel in Deaville, leaving behind a bewildered foppish Victor and tartan clad Sybil to wonder what have become of their newlywed partners.
Coward is said to have written the play in four days whilst stricken with influenza in Shanghai, first off playing Elyot himself, and Laurence Olivier in the role of Victor. The play premiered on 18 August 1930 at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh. Five weeks later, when it reached the Phoenix Theatre in London the reviews became mixed. I like the fact that it was said to be,
“amusing, no doubt, yet hardly moving farther below the surface than a paper boat in a bathtub and, like the paper boat, ever in imminent danger of becoming a shapeless, sodden mass.”
Agreeably or disagreeably, not much happens in terms of action, apart from a fair few raised fisticuffs between all the characters.
The beauty is in the change and turn of conversation, love which turns to sour, sour which turns to passion, and then the unflattering portrayal of what it is to be in a relationship and to be a person, hammed up for comic and dramatic effect.
Apparently the play has been made into a BBC Radio 4 broadcast with Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy. In Toronto’s 2011-2012 Season, Kim Catrall is to play Amanda after already playing the London show. The cast we were greeted with last night in Oldham were wonderfully convincing as the lavish characters, and the script stood the test of time to shock, giggle, and confuse.
Thanks to the youngsters of the Pathways scheme and their officerAmy Guest (he he), for making it an extra special evening, I especially liked the suitably fitting middle class school uniform.
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