Noel Coward’s classic farce Private Lives is coming to the Birmingham New Alex Theatre this February, and to celebrate the occasion, the theatre hosted a very special Q&A session and afternoon tea with two of the stars, Strictly winner Tom Chambers and Call the Midwife star Charlotte Ritchie. It was a lovely opportunity to learn a little more about the play, and about the life of an actor working on a play. And to eat cake, lots of lovely cake. I took my mom along for the afternoon, and we had a lovely time enjoying the charm and wit of Tom and Charlotte, who are just perfect for Noel Coward’s legendary work.
It was a fascinating afternoon, where we were entertained with tales of how actors cope when they forget their lines and just clam up. Tom told the tale of being fed lines by a nine year old when performing White Christmas, and how he coped when he tripped over on stage recently during a performance of Private Lives. I loved the story about how a cocktail that has been spilled was worked into the play so that the audience were totally in on the mishap. Charlotte, who has recently been acting in a lot of TV programmes, talked about the differences between acting in television – where you film something and then never see it again, and theatre, where you are performing the same lines over and over again, sometimes even twice a day. Charlotte admitted that learning lines is very boring, with no real way of livening it up.
There was also discussion of whether Tom and Charlotte actually liked their characters from the play. Tom admitted that Elyot is almost a sociopath, but is also immensely charming and ultimately likable. Charlotte describes her character Sybil as a woman of her time, but feels she would like her modern day equivalent. She also loved the elegant 1930s fashion that the play allowed her to wear.
Once the chat was over, a glorious afternoon tea of crust-less sandwiches, petit fours of savoury mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and pesto, and sweet raspberry and custard were highlights, as was a rather delicious yellow drizzle cake. Tom and Charlotte mingled with the guests and I managed to have a little chat with Tom, who I had interviewed last year ahead of Strictly Come Dancing Live (read here). I can confirm that he is charm personified, an old style matinee idol transferred to the 21st Century.
Private Lives 8th – 13th February New Alex Theatre, click here for ticket information.