In Private Lives, Noël Coward presents the 1920s world of 'silk dressing gown' sophistication. Divorced for six years, Amanda and Elyot find themselves booked into adjoining honeymoon suites with their new spouses, Victor and Sibyl. Their passion is reignited and they escape their new partnerships by eloping to Paris. Underneath the farcical improbability of the premise and the acid bite of the sparkling dialogue seethes the very real passion and pain of two people who find it hard to be together but impossible to be apart.
Coward wrote Elyot and Amanda for himself and Gertrude Lawrence, and here they are played by Anton Lesser and Juliet Stevenson in the National Theatre's 1999 production. According to The Telegraph, casting two 'serious' actors in one of the 'most satisfyingly constructed and brilliantly executed high comedies in the English language' was a success.