I recently went to see Noel Coward’s Private Lives at one of our local theatres. It was the first time I’d seen the play live, I can vaguely remember seeing the movie version a long time ago, but it was so long ago that I couldn’t tell you who starred in it. What struck me the most about it was his use of dialogue and how it virtually sparked from the mouths of the players bringing the whole thing to life in a very lively fashion.
The acting was superb from all involved and I admired the respect show the play in the way they kept it strictly a period piece and ignored any motivation to bring it up to date. I seriously think if they had given in to any urge in that direction it would have ruined the play.
Going back to the dialogue and how it was written, Coward had a real flair of making his characters real people in just the way they spoke, a skill some writers struggle with, myself included. No matter what setting we place our characters in, no matter how detailed and evocative they are it’s all for naught if the characters sound wooden or just unreal.
Coward was one of the old masters at this craft and along with writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Philip Marlowe he brought his characters to life as soon as they opened their mouths to speak. When this happened we knew we were in for a treat.
I’m off to see King Lear in a short time at the same theatre but this is a reworking of the classic Shakespeare play set in a modern Northern environment. It will be interesting to see how this is pulled off. I know some of the actors work in this play so I know it’ll be a damn good play. It will also be another first for me as King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s play’s I have not seen and perhaps it’ll help my understanding of the play a little better if the language is more up to date.
So from an old master done as it was meant, to an old master brought up to date, let’s see which I prefer.
See you soon