Private Lives – Melbourne Theatre Company

Nadine is currently performing in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of “Private Lives”.

The Age has given her performance the thumbs up.

But it’s the smouldering, volatile passion between Elyot and Amanda that takes centre stage, and the terrific chemistry between Leon Ford and Nadine Garner really makes the show. There are echoes of Beatrice and Benedick in the sardonic, flippant wit that Coward wrote for this unorthodox couple and Ford and Garner slide into it like a particularly comfy pair of slippers with gravel in the toe.

It’s a pleasure to watch the awkwardness of their surrender to the inevitable, and the performances don’t skimp on the dark side of the relationship, effortlessly morphing from moments of private joy and romantic nostalgia to all-out warfare and back again.

Ford’s elastic features lend themselves to clowning, from every degree of eyebrow arching to an endless parade of expressions that act as masks for his mortification. Elyot is a perverse creature, and Ford gets a sharper silhouette from not going out of his way to be liked.

Garner too has a talent for drawing out the perversity of human character. Her Amanda is headstrong and restless, funny and charming, always pulling awkward faces and flinging her body around to stave off ennui. It’s hard to look away, especially when she gets angry: one highlight is an alarming domestic where Elyot and Amanda start tearing up the scenery, much to the chagrin of the French maid (played with delightful physical humour by Julie Forsyth).

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