”To hell with love!”
Directed by Tom Attenborough, Noel Coward’s classic 1930 comedy is mostly a success- although Lucy Osbourne’s artificial-looking set design in the opening scene bears an unfortunate resemblance to naff 80s sit-com Duty Free, and is a little distracting. However, her romantic French getaway design is much more ornate, with a boat-shaped chaise longue and lovely decor.
In performance terms, it is a slow-burner. When cocksure, ageing playboy Elyot Chase (Tom Chambers) and his new younger bride Sibyl (Charlotte Ritchie) gaze out of their balcony, there’s an additional hitch, in the shapely form of Elyot’s ex-wife Amanda Prynne (Laura Rogers) with new husband Victor (Richard Teverson) who are Honeymooning at the same place.
Cue all manner of slapstick shenanigans; misunderstandings and catty exchanges.
Chambers takes a while to relax into his role tonight, but Ritchie (wonderful as posh neurotic Oregon in Channel 4 series Fresh Meat) is a feisty, funny presence from the get-go; much more wise and likable than mere glamorous trophy wife.
Victor Prynne is something of a stuffed-shirt, but Teverson invests him with an endearing wit and vulnerability. But it’s Laura Rogers who is the stand-out here, excelling as progressive, sardonic Amanda with charm and a lovely singing voice.
Chambers’ niche is of course in the vaudeville dance sequence- he is a real twinkle-toes with Rogers- but has a thin croon during You Do something To Me.
Morals have changed- as well as tastes- since Coward’s day, and there is no denying the more unsavoury aspects of the dialogue (casual racism and a nod to domestic violence are nothing to giggle about) but what Attenborough does so beautifully is draw out the posturing of the four characters, focusing on the tropes of masculine and feminine behaviour, and satirising the idle rich.
In the main- it sparkles like champers.
At Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until February 27th, before touring nationally.