Private Lives

Definition

Theater

  • A comedy of manners by Noël Coward, first producedin London in 1930. The plot revolves around the acerbic divorceesAmanda and Elyot, who both happen to be honeymooning in the same hotelwith their new spouses. On the verandas of their adjacent rooms, theold love-hate relationship is rekindled:
    Amanda Have you known her long? [referring to hisnew wife]
    Elyot About four months, we met in a houseparty in Norfolk.
    Amanda Very flat, Norfolk.

    The play was written by Coward as a vehicle for himself andGertrude Lawrence. It has often been suggested that the intenselove-hate relationship between Elyot and Amanda - who find beingtogether almost as painful as being apart - reflects some ofthe tensions in the relationship between Coward and Lawrence themselves.

    In the first production, Laurence Olivier made anearly West End appearance as Amanda's new husband, Victor Prynne.It was during the long opening run of Private Lives that Olivier'snotorious tendency to giggle on stage was addressed. Coward told Olivierthat he would make him laugh in every performance during the breakfastscene until he could control himself. After seven months, Olivierconfessed himself cured.

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