Nigel Havers commands a strong stage presence in this abrasive show: Private Lives, co-starring Patricia Hodge, is a real battle of the sexes
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury On tour from January 17, 2hrs
National Theatre Until January 1, 2hrs 30mins
Private Lives is the inaugural production of the Nigel Havers Theatre Company. Nigel and his co-star Patricia Hodge are in their 70s – pretty good going considering that Noël Coward wrote and starred in it when he was 31.
I think of Havers as the lovechild of Peter Pan and Roger Moore. But I’ll say this for the elegant cad: he can wear a double-breasted dinner jacket as if to the manner born. Hodge is a proper Coward veteran and the stronger stage presence of the two.
They play divorced couple Elyot and Amanda, who re-meet on adjacent hotel balconies on their honeymoons with dull new spouses. Still in love, they elope to Paris, where their relentless bickering starts up all over again.
Nigel and his co-star Patricia Hodge (above) are in their 70s – pretty good going considering that Noël Coward wrote and starred in Private Lives when he was 31
Watch out for the attempted sex on the sofa scene – it’s funnier with two older actors, he wincing with arthritis, she with indigestion.
Natalie Walter and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart are suitably ghastly as their much younger, priggish spouses, with Aicha Kossoko as the trilling French maid.
Christopher Luscombe’s production has none of the play’s delightful androgyny but instead comes with a heavy hint of Horlicks.
They cut the line ‘certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs’ but this battle of the sexes is still an abrasive old ding-dong. Havers ravers will love it. The tour recommences after the Christmas break.
Manor is a muddled new play by Moira Buffini in which Nancy Carroll plays the bonkers toff chatelaine of a leaking manor house who fancies a far-Right rogue, played with hiss-and-boo villainy by Endeavour star Shaun Evans.
A weird, Leftie, apocalyptic state- of-the-nation drama with an Agatha Christie set, it bangs on to little purpose.
It’s directed by the playwright’s sister, Fiona Buffini, who failed to demand a major rewrite.