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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 In an ideal world we could say domestic violence is as outdated as the issue of women unable to own property or vote, but it’s not.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.

Until Nov 11, Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills, $29-62, 9699 3444,

  • Sebastian

    I can’t work out if this review spends its second half constructing an incredibly clever satire on issue-obsessed undergraduate critics (almost worthy of Coward) or actually is a completely anachronistic and inappropriate piece of utter drivel.

    Glad you found the play funny. You, however, are either a supremely gifted satirist or the prototype for the ultimate Coward dinner party bore character.

  • Ted

    Great review! Couldn’t agree more – I really enjoyed Belvoir’s privates lives – its my kind of humour and it was really well performed – but this review really takes on the elephant in the room – which is the fact that the play normalises domestic violence and makes it into a joke. I don’t know how they could have approached this play to avoid using violence against women as a punchline, but I feel like they should have tried harder…

  • Lisa

    This sounds like an interesting show, although I imagine it won’t be for everyone. Well-balanced review though – thanks.