When it comes to finding a suitable venue in which to put on this play, Something Witty Productions made an inspired choice in the Albert Room of the Grand Hotel. It’s high ceiling and amazing chandelier lighting, together with the violins playing background music, takes the audience back to the atmosphere of the 30s as soon as they enter. The strawberry or lime cocktails, which are offered on arrival, manage to take the experience up another notch and it is great to see that so many people have dressed up to suit the decade as well.
The performance takes place in the round, well, in the rectangle really, as the cabaret style tabled seating is placed against the walls with the action of the piece mainly taking place in the centre of the room but, more so in the second act, also at either end. The story is of a divorced couple who, having just married new partners, find themselves in adjoining rooms in the same hotel. The action begins on the balconies of those rooms and the outdoor furniture, together with some plants and a small dividing fence, serve well to represent this.
Elyot Daniel Lane and Sibyl Rebecca Cooper are the first couple we meet. He is confident and self-assured, almost cocky, with occasional flashes of a temper that gives an indication of the explosive drama to come. She is somewhat needy, and so very desperate to be in love, but her incessant questions about his first wife create tension. Lane and Cooper are incredibly good in these roles, managing to keep that sophisticated stiff upper lip despite the stresses of their newlywed status.
In the next room is Victor Jason Blackwater a bearded giant of a man who seems, on the surface, every bit the match for his incredibly feisty new wife Amanda Heather Rayment. Blackwater goes all out, in Act One, to show off exactly how pompous and blustering his character is, with a much more withdrawn and reflective side exposed in Act Two.
Rayment is, without question, the strongest actor in the piece. Her tall slender figure suits perfectly the character of Amanda, and the images of the era, with her costumes, including a wonderful green ball gown, serving well to emphasise this. She is, at the same time, energetic, strong willed, sensual and quick tempered, a heady mixture and one that, upon discovering her on the very next balcony, Elyot realises he cannot resist.
Noel Coward’s story is witty, intelligent and, above all, totally predictable but this actually serves as a good thing. With the outcome of the piece so obvious full attention is given to the superb script, the amazing performances, one of the best (and messiest) fight scenes ever to be witnessed and the total enjoyment of a, quite simply, stunning production.