March 12-22, 1969
"I think very few people are completely normal really, deep down in their private lives."
In the 1950's, the reputation of Noel Coward, who until that time had enjoyed an unparalleled popularity for more than thirty years, dipped drastically not to rise again until the sudden, and unexpected, success in 1966 of his latest play, A Song at Twilight. Suprisingly, or so it seems to the author, it is the younger generation of critics and producers who are mainly responsible for the revival of his popularity and the sudden onslaught of interest in what the more jaded writers like to call " vintage Coward." Perhaps this is because now, there is a vast new generation of theatre people - both public and performers - who did not grow up with his plays, and who are sufficiently removed from his "present" to be able to see beyond the apparent superficiality of his situations and into the more human depths of his characters.
Coward always has something serious to say. That is quite different from saying something seriously, for Coward is above all else a master of comedy. He does not write funny lines, for the dialogue is rarely funny out of context, the humour rising from the situation and the character. The thing that strikes me most about Private Lives, is not what the characters are saying, but what they are thinking and doing while they are saying what they are saying. This undercurrent, this very serious undercurrent, is the key to Coward, especially Coward as done in 1969. Although we are doing the paly in the period in which it was written (1930) we are not producing it as a period piece. We know too much; we see too many films, television, read to many newspapers, to be able to pass over the fact that what we have in this play are very real people going through very real problems (in fact we can go so far as to say that they are the same people and problems as in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - despite the difference in treatment).
In the second act, Eloyt says: "Lets be superficial and pity the poor philosophers. Let's blow trumpets and squeakers, and enjoy the party as much as we can, like very small, quite idiotic school children." Serious? Yes. In context of the play, very funny. We can laugh or we can cry...and in this case we shall probably do both.