“Private Lives” Directors Blog
January 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
Whenever I start directing a show I first think of what makes this play accessible to a modern audience. At first this seemed easy; Noel Coward’s shows are perfect for the time and place we as a culture are living in right now. At the end of the 1920’s living glamorously was what everyone aspired to. Drinking cocktails, smoking, living in Paris and looking great while doing it were the sought after norm. One look inside the pages of GQ, Vanity Fair or any other fashion journal and you can see that all these things are coming back. The artisanal cocktail is back, along with, one of last year’s biggest hair trends, the bob or pixie cut for women and mustaches for men. In addition, men and women’s fashion websites are more numerous now than ever before. Men, especially have started returning to a time before business-casual was the norm for everyday wear. We are living in Noel Coward’s world re-born.
But why has the show remained so popular through the years? Since starting the rehearsal process what I’ve realized is just how timeless the story and the characters are. While the fashion has come back around what has made this play endure throughout the decades has been its relationships. On the page Amanda and Ellyot’s relationship should not work. Amanda says to her current husband Victor at the top of the play “That was the trouble with Elyot and me, we were like two violent acids bubbling about in a nasty little matrimonial bottle.” But that’s exactly what makes them click. Some people are looking for love to be “wise, and kind, and undramatic. Something steady and sweet, to smooth out your nerves when you’re tired. Something tremendously cosy; and unflurried by scenes and jealousies.” as Elyot tells his new wife, Sybil. Most people, when they imagine their perfect relationship, are probably looking for that. However, real life never lives fully up to our expectations. Elyot and Amanda find love in argument, passion and bucking current trends. They find love in the exact opposite ideal of what society says they should want. The title “Private Lives” really says it all. The outside world looking in would never understand what makes this relationship work, but they don’t need to. All that matters is that it works for them.
In this version I promise you that the show presents laughs, tears, jazz and a record being smashed over someone’s head. From the first production meeting everyone involved has been completely on board with the glamourous style of the late 1920’s. The set and the props immediately transport us to a world of art-deco of a Paris apartment and glamour of a swanky hotel. The light design takes us from the romance of the night through eye opening morning after when we think about the choices we made the night before. The sound design will put us in a jazz club in the roaring 20’s. There is also featured music including a bit “Dream a Little Dream of Me” first recorded in 1931 and “Someday I’ll Find You” written specifically by Mr. Coward for Private Lives.
In addition the actors have truly embraced what it means to be looking and moving great in the 1920’s. From the moment they put the costumes on for the first time they were transported to the world of the play, which only helped to add the wonderful work they have been doing since we started our rehearsals in December. This group of actors is one of the closet knit groups of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. It’s incredibley hard to find truth in comedy, but I truly feel that these artists are doing just that. I am incredibly lucky to have had the pleasure to work with them. But, all that being said, there’s still work to be done! Opening night is less than a week away! Hopefully I’ll see you there.
Dylan S. Roberts