PRIVATE LIVES

Elyot (Toby Schmitz) and Sibyl (Eloise Mignon) are on day one of their honeymoon. Staying next door are Amanda (Zahra Newman) and Victor (Toby Truslove) who are also celebrating their recent marriage. The biggest coincidence of all? Elyot and Amanda used to be married and as it turns out – they’re still in love.

Fans of old-fashioned English comedy are in for treat. Director Ralph Myers has placed Noël Coward’s 1930s comedy of manners into a modern context with Aussie accents and a minimalist setting. And with witty one-liners such as, “Don’t quibble Sibyl” it still has comforting old-school British charm.

Audiences will leave this show feeling elevated. However, even with the fun props (a particularly entertaining lift) and enjoyable performances, the hangover from Private Lives leaves behind a bad taste. While Toby Schmitz as Elyot steals the show with his dapper style and dry sense of humour, he’s also a wife-beater. Elyot feels no remorse but rather talks in a “she-deserved-it” way and Amanda continues to go back for more. In an ideal world we could say domestic violence is as outdated as the issue of women unable to own property or vote, but it’s not.

Could it be for some people violence against women is a laughing matter? In the director’s note Myers talks about class and accents without a word on modern domestic violence. It’s hard to stomach, but it feels like this 90-minute performance only uses wife bashing as a way to develop plots or create slapstick situations. Unfortunately, there is no room for social statements or a call for change in this very funny comedy.

Published in City News online and in print on Sep 28, 2012

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