Guest Blog: Kieran Buckeridge On The UK Tour Of PRIVATE LIVES
I am sitting in my dressing room at the Malvern Theatre, waiting to begin the technical rehearsal. Shirt starched, hair slicked back, braces tightened. Victor Prynne is looking back at me in the mirror.
He has looked back at me once before, 10 years ago, at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick where I first played the part. By the time press night had come and gone I had fallen in love with the actress playing Sibyl. Three years later we were married and two years ago she gave birth to my daughter Nessa.
Right now she is at home grabbing a nap whilst Nessa does the same, as she is pregnant again with our second (and final?!) child. What a lot of change has happened in my life since playing this part before. Yet Victor hasn't changed. The play hasn't changed. Our lives move on, but Private Lives remains the same.
So what makes it relevant to an audience of today? It's made it on to the A-level syllabus for this year, but what will your average 15-year-old make of it?
Coming back to the play again I realise there is still so much to talk about in rehearsals. We sat round the table for a good few days discussing many things, including class, sex, gender roles, the institution of marriage, even domestic violence. Pick up any lifestyle magazine and most of the pages will be filled with these themes.
But what always comes to the top of this and of many good plays is relationships. There is so much still to mine from Coward's 90-year-old words, and many ways to look at them. I thought I had got as far as I could with Victor the first time around, yet here I am discovering new things, realising that 10 years later I see things a little differently.
The joy of performing this play is the fun of bouncing off your fellow actors. That's why I love it, and why I love acting; the thrill of a curveball coming at you that you have to field and deflect in a new way. If a play is as well written as this one you don't really tire of performing it and it's not difficult to keep it fresh.
My other Coward experience was at the Stephen Joseph Theatre back in 2012 - I played Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit. A completely different play really, but again similar themes are addressed, particularly the jealousy surrounding old relationships. In this case the old relationship comes back to haunt the new one, quite literally.
What I loved about that production and about this current one is that we are all correctly cast to age. Often much older actors play Elyot and Amanda, and I understand why. It's hard for a modern audience to believe in a 30-year-old having so much life experience as Elyot or Amanda has had. We marry much later in life now, but they have been married for three years and divorced for five.
I love the youthful vigour of this production. It's quick and sharp and really fizzes with Coward's wit. It takes a lot of vocal energy and crystal-clear articulation to make sure that everything is understood. Yes, it really is that fast!!
What I'm really looking forward to most of all is playing the show to an audience ranging from 15- to 90-year-olds. Some may have seen it before, many times, but being able to eavesdrop on these newlyweds, being able to peek into the tornado of their private lives is what makes this play a thrilling one to perform and hopefully to watch too.