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Private Lives - Old Mill Theatre

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

A show full of acerbic wit and fast-paced dialogue, Private Lives by Noël Coward as presented by Barry Park for the Old Mill Theatre is a modern classic, with internal commentary that is as relevant now as in the 1930s when it was written. The play itself exists in somewhat of a limbo, with no real external context or consequence outside of those already involved, yet it hints at the darker side of its characters and their own private lives.


Barry Park has selected a highly talented and engaging small cast in what is a dialogue-driven show. The central performances of Elyot and Amanda were a delight to watch. The chemistry between Krysia Wiechecki and Thomas Dimmick is the highlight of the production as a whole, bringing the audience almost onside with two fairly unlikable characters. Between the volatile moments and the more intimate calmness, they segue through the roller-coaster of emotions and the scathing dialogue that the protagonists throw at one another with ease.


Krysia and Thomas are well supported by both Declan Waters and Daniela Barbosa as their unlucky spouses, Victor and Sybil. The work done on delineating these two roles from the roles of Elyot and Amanda, something often forgotten in these more underdeveloped characters, is handled well by these two performers. There are a couple of more intimate moments where their performances are overpowered by the energy and volume of our two protagonists, but these moments are fleeting. Annabelle Eirth rounds out this cast as the poor suffering maid, Louise, a small but important role well handled especially with the dialogue being mostly in French.


The costuming by Merri Ford well captures the different settings and times within the show, from cocktail dresses to pyjamas and everything in between. The costumes also allow for the physical nature of a lot of moments in the show. The set by George Boyd is well used and well dressed, with the impressive movement of trucks between Acts I and II to seamlessly transition from Deauville to Paris. The set in Act I did feel a little tight for the performers, but that may be down to the narrowness of the Old Mill stage itself.


The soundscape was well-selected and added to the atmosphere throughout the show. Of particular note was the use of somewhat directional sound when it came to the gramophone. The lighting was simple, and effective (especially during the height of the action toward the end of Act II), but it did lack a little atmosphere at times, especially in the opening act. Additionally, when the actors were on the edges of the stage, particularly downstage in Act I, there were noticeable darker spaces, some of which were in places the actors tended to dwell.


This show has sold well thus far, and it is easy to see why. Get yourself a ticket if you still can (some shows have already sold out) - definitely one for your 2023 theatre calendar. The season runs until the 29th of April.


Thomas Dimmick (Elyot Chase) and Krysia Wiechecki (Amanda Prynne)
Thomas Dimmick (Elyot Chase) and Krysia Wiechecki (Amanda Prynne)

Reviewer note: Kate has previously performed at the Old Mill Theatre. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.



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