by Noël Coward
directed by Pauline Nevell
St Joseph’s Players
It took just three days for Noël Coward to write this amusing comedy of manners, a sophisticated entertaining play. The presentation has to capture the stylish 1930s and in this production it was achieved with the set and costumes. It is a shame that the men’s costumes are not as readily available as the ladies’ as costumes do create the overall ambience. The lighting confirmed the moods of this soufflé of a play by creating the necessary atmosphere.
The direction brought out the best within the cast, making the characters believable resulting in an overall feel of an energetic love tennis match of mixed doubles.
This story of a pair of embattled couples has one extra individual, Louise, a maid. Her inability to speak any English, and the outlandish lifestyle of her mistress, made for number of comic moments. Elizabeth Flay, in seemingly fluent French, generated humorous reactions.
The iconic balcony scene at a hotel in Deauville, France is where the action begins. The newlyweds, Elyot and Sibyl Chase, and Victor and Amanda Prynne, are in adjoining rooms. Unbeknown to Elyot and Amanda who were once married to each other their love is to be rekindled.
Darran Nash played the wealthy Elyot, originally portrayed by the author. Although maybe not all the sharp witty dialogue and verbal daggers hit their targets but Darran was by no means a weak link; he is a strong performer and achieved a great deal with his characterisation. This came to the fore in the chemistry between, and the bickering relationship with Amanda. Given time, Darran is going to be an actor in demand.
Sibyl is threatened by her husband’s first wife, Amanda, and promises to tailor life to suit Elyot’s whims. Pauline Nevell epitomized the wailing new bride, innocent wronged wife but finding her true soul-mate in stuffy Victor.
As the vivacious, spirited and unconventional Amanda, Clare Nash ticked all the boxes. Clare captured Amanda’s unmanageability of love and sex somewhat reminiscent of the of the battles reported between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Amanda’s new husband is Victor, who describes himself as “normal”. He is stuffy with no sense of humour but deeply loves his wife. Paul Jameson, as the conventional Victor, has stage presence and adds depth behind the lines.
By the end of the play we see Victor and Sibyl quarrelling, mirroring Elyot and Amanda who have left to continue their impulsive life together.
The company caringly took the audience on a comedy journey of behaviour of individuals, of life with, or without, each other.