Private Lives

Written by Noël Coward

Thurs 5th October - Sat 7th October & Thurs 12th October - Sat 14th October 1978

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

Glamorous, rich and reckless, Elyot and Amanda have been divorced for five years, and are enjoying honeymoons with their new spouses in the South of France. When they meet again across adjoining hotel balconies, their insatiable feelings for each other are immediately rekindled.

AuthorNoël Coward

Sir Noël Pierce Coward (1899 - 1973)

Noël Coward was not only a prolific playwright but a poet, composer, director, actor and singer too. Well-known for his wit and flamboyance, his work and style continue to influence popular culture.

Born in Teddington, Coward attended a dance academy as a child, making his professional stage debut at the age of eleven. As a teenager he was introduced into the high society in which most of his plays would be set. Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works, poetry, several volumes of short stories, a novel (Pomp and Circumstance) and a three-volume autobiography. Coward's stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work. He worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs and the former Albery Theatre was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in his honour in 2006.

PlayPrivate Lives

'Private Lives' is a comedy of manners written in 1930. It focuses on a divorced couple, Elyot and Amanda who discover that they are honeymooning with their new spouses in the same hotel. After a chance meeting, without a care for scandal, their new partners, or any memory of what drove them apart in the first place, they hurl themselves headlong into an affair. Before long it becomes clear that while Elyot and Amanda cannot live without each other, they can't live with each other either. When the affair is discovered, the two wronged spouses, Sybil and Victor, argue vehemently and the ending has a suitable Coward-esque twist.

The play has been said by some to represent Coward's own attitudes to marriage. It was written in Shanghai in 1931 while Coward was recovering from a bout of influenza. After touring the provinces, the play opened the new Phoenix Theatre in London in 1930, starring Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Adrianne Allen and Laurence Olivier. A Broadway production followed in 1931, and the play has been revived many times in the West End and on Broadway.

The Bench Production

Private Lives poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


ElyotDavid Penrose
SibylAnne Brodrick
Victor PrynneTony Czapp
AmandaLinda Westbrook
LouiseAnna Gawley


Director Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Langley Gifford
Assistant Stage Managers Cathy Foster
Brian Sweatman
Lighting Anthony Elliott
Sound John Studd
Set Design Chris Shaw
Set Construction Brian Sweatman
Set Construction Ray Osborne
Set Construction Ed Sawyer
Props Jaki Curtis
Robbie Cattermole


The News A.H.

Private Lives worth seeing

A cast of five had to work hard in 'Private Lives' by Noël Coward. The presentation demanded a high standard of action - and they succeeded admirably. The Bench Theatre Group has the ideal intimate setting at Havant Arts Centre, East Street. The play has heavy dependence on dialogue rather than plot, and is full of humour. Elyot (David Penrose) was extremely well portrayed. His dry humour in the opening scene, his "been through it all before" attitude, and his flippancy in act three, was excellent. The other main character of the play is Amanda (Linda Westbrooke). Her strength of character lacked punch in the first part of the play and she made a minor error in her lines, but it was not an obvious mistake and she carried on to prove a worthy match for Elyot.

Action centres around Elyot and Amanda, the whole of the second act is theirs and is by far the highlight of the play. Secondary characters in the play, Victor (Tony Czapp) and Sibyl (Anne Brodrick), were played equally well. But they really only existed as figures to be knocked down time and again like skittles. Their naive and idealistic approach to marriage contrasted vividly with the attitude of the divorcees Amanda and Elyot. The plot is non-existent, but the witty repartee is well worth witnessing, especially when Elyot is given such lines as "Women should be struck regularly - like a gong." It was a full house and hearty laughter echoed around the hall. Serving no real purpose in the play, other than to add variety, was the appearance of a French maid, Louise, played by Anna Gawley. 'Private Lives' will also play on October 12, 13, and 14. Performances start at 7.30 p.m.

The News, 9th October 1978

Production Photographs