Stage Door News

Stratford: Noël Coward's “Private Lives” now on stage at the Stratford Festival

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The wit of Noël Coward is at its cheekiest in his exquisite romantic comedy, Private Lives, now on stage at the Avon Theatre. The production opens on Thursday, May 30.

Set in a sophisticated world of cocktails, glamour and sparkling repartee, Private Lives follows Amanda and Elyot, a divorced couple who are reunited by chance – while honeymooning with their new spouses. Succumbing to raging ex appeal, they run off together to Paris, only to discover all over again – hilariously – that there’s more than one way to drive each other crazy. 

The production is directed by Carey Perloff, returning for her third season. Her Stratford credits include John Gabriel Borkman and Phèdre, and she recently completed a 25-year tenure as artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

“At the beginning of my directing career, I had the good fortune to be in rehearsal with Harold Pinter, who took me aside one day and said, ‘If you respond so strongly to my stuff, perhaps it’s time for you to direct Noël Coward,’” says Perloff. “It has taken thirty years for me to follow his advice, but as soon as I got into the room with Coward’s forensic language and his desperate, hilarious, love-sick characters, I understood what Pinter meant. It is often assumed that Coward’s world is a kind of brittle upper-class exercise in style, but the gorgeous surface of his language belies a kind of existential and chaotic despair underneath.”

“Coward brilliantly captures the impossibility of love and how it turns even the best of us into irrational creatures,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “He uses comedy to examine how we live with our own identity relative to others. Here are two people who make each other’s lives miserable – and they wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s hilarious and also totally heartbreaking.”

The production features the glorious quartet of Lucy Peacock as Amanda Prynne, Geraint Wyn Davies as Elyot Chase, Mike Shara as Victor Prynne and Sophia Walker as Sybil Chase, with Sarah Dodd as Louise, Amanda’s all-seeing maid. 

The creative team includes Set Designer Ken MacDonald, Costume Designer Christina Poddubiuk, Lighting DesignerKimberly Purtell, Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Music Director Laura Burton, Fight Director Anita Nittoly and Choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie.

The facets of Coward’s work will be explored in several events at the Forum this season. In July, a panel of Coward enthusiasts, including actor-playwright Sky Gilbert and writer and journalist Robert Cushman, will examine his rise to fame in Coward: The Self-Made Man (July 24). Cushman returns in October to host Private Letters, Public Lives (October 2), an examination of Coward’s professional and personal relationship with Gertrude Lawrence, as Geraint Wyn Davies and Sarah Orenstein read a selection of letters between the two. Later that month, Wyn Davies will join fellow members of the company in performing Coward’s romantic songs in If Love Were All: A Coward Cabaret (October 19).

Production support for Private Lives is generously provided by M. Fainer.

Support for the 2019 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham family.


by Noël Coward
Director Carey Perloff

April 24 – October 26; opens Thursday, May 30

Avon Theatre, 99 Downie Street, Stratford, Ontario

Tickets $23.50 to $201

Box office: 1-800-567-1600

The Stratford Festival’s 2019 season runs until November 3, featuring Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VIII, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Private Lives, The Neverending Story, Mother’s Daughter, Nathan the Wise, The Front Page, The Crucible and Birds of a Kind.