Patricia's delighted to bring Noel Coward's Private Lives to Princess Theatre

Torbay Weekly

Well-known actress and actor Patricia Hodge and Nigel Havers are bringing one of Noel Coward's most famous comedies to the stage of Torquay's Princess Theatre.

And Patricia, especially, can't wait as she reveals how she has links to this part of the world.

Torquay is a particular highlight for Patricia as she looks forward to playing a leading role in Coward's Private Lives.

She says: "I have family in Devon and so I am very pleased to be doing the West Country, as they will come and see me and the play. Theatre gets a bit thin on the ground there, so The Princess is an important venue.”

There’s much more to Private Lives than pure comedy, which is surely why, almost a century on, it continues to delight.

Patricia, one of our best-loved and most critically acclaimed actresses, who will play Amanda, says: “It’s endured because it is one of those plays that examine the human condition.

“Unlike a play that makes some sort of sociological comment, and therefore can lose its relevance over time,  Private Lives is about relationships and emotions; a couple who can’t live together and can’t live apart."

Ever-suave and charming, Nigel Havers, who plays Elyot and is also one of the play’s producers, agrees.

“It’s a very funny play about love and friendship, so I hope audiences are going to enjoy themselves. Goodness knows I think we’re all really ready to enjoy ourselves,” he says.

Certainly Covid has amplified our appetites for almost anything that cheers the heart, so master of wit and repartee Coward is a perfect antidote to pandemic life, isn’t he?

“Yes, absolutely,” says Patricia, adding: “And think of the number of people who were stuck together for far too long!

“The central act is quite suffocating; two people in a room together. The interaction between them is like poles that constantly attract and oppose.

“I think there will be a lot of recognition, and laughter is recognition. It’s the absurdities of human behaviour and the comedic element of that.”

Elyot and Amanda, who were once married, find themselves in adjoining rooms in the same hotel on the French coast, both on honeymoon with their new partners.

Their initial horror quickly evaporates and soon they’re sharing cocktails and a romantic serenade.

Directed by Coward connoisseur Christopher Luscombe, the decision to take the show out on the road was a very deliberate one.

Nigel says: "Taking a play anywhere is a risk at the moment, but in my experience the regional audiences are generally better; more appreciative, than they are in London.

“Fortunately, I don’t mind touring, and my wife always comes with me. She always says that she can only see the play once, and so after she’s seen it she goes off sightseeing.

“There are so many wonderful towns and theatres. You do get to see such lovely places on tour.

“And regional theatres are making such great efforts to ensure that they are as safe as they possibly can be, so I say come and feel safe and enjoy.”

“There is something so utterly emotionally pleasurable about playing regional theatres,” adds Patricia. “You feel as if you are speaking directly to the audiences.”

Private Lives is Nigel and Patricia’s first ever stage production together.

“We’ve worked together in television before, but never on stage,” confirms Patricia, who says that a play like Private Lives, which is centred on a relationship, has a distinct advantage if the two leading actors know and like each other.

“You have to have a rapport with the person you work with. We’ve known each other for ever, so we knew we’d be OK.”

The charming Mr Havers nods his agreement - there is clearly great respect and friendship between the pair - but also confesses that as well as being his first on-stage appearance with Patricia, the show also marks another career milestone.

“I’ve never done a Coward play before,” he confesses.

Private Lives is at the Princess Theatre, Torquay, from February 8 to 12. For tickets, log on to www.atgtickets.com/venues/princess-theatre-torquay

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