Noel Coward's Private Lives set to return to Edinburgh, the city of its premiere
Director Martin Duncan: 'It’s a rollercoaster of a play: funny, absurd, excruciating, trivial and tragic at the same time'
Regularly revived, most recently through the Chichester Festival and the Gielgud Theatre in London, Noel Coward’s Private Lives becomes particularly resonant when it returns to Edinburgh. After all, it was in this city’s King’s Theatre in August 1930 that his comedy – about a pair of divorcees reunited when they both inadvertently honeymoon with their new partners in a French hotel – received its world premiere, with Coward himself and Laurence Olivier in the leading male roles.
‘Without doubt Coward and (actor) Gertrude Lawrence, who had a fantastic personal and professional relationship, would have tried out – and amended – the script on audiences on the road,’ says the director of this version, Martin Duncan, former artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse and co-artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre, ‘so some of their experiences with the Edinburgh audiences will have been absorbed into the final script. It feels so right to bring it back to the city.’ Martin himself is returning to the city and to the Lyceum in particular after bringing his take on the musical Man of La Mancha here in 2007.
‘Private Lives is at once entertaining, relevant, hilarious and touching – the perfect play,’ he says of his desire to come back to Coward now. ‘It tells us that human relationships are uncontrollable and endlessly refreshing, with the characters in the play choosing stable, safe partners to erase their hedonistic pasts but ending up in a deeper, wilder drama than ever before. It’s a rollercoaster of a play: funny, absurd, excruciating, trivial and tragic at the same time. But it’s also about the ups and downs of relationships: the characters fall in love, fall out of love, quarrel, flight and drink like fish. So I guess there’s something for everyone.’
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 Mar.