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Tom Chambers and Charlotte Ritchie on Noël Coward's classic Private Lives

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By Lee-Anne Gough

A major new production of Noël Coward's best loved and multi-award winning Private Lives visits Richmond from Mon 15 - Sat 20 February. At an exclusive meet and greet event with stars Tom Chambers (Top Hat the musical and Strictly Come Dancing winner) and Charlotte Ritchie (Call the Midwife and Fresh Meat) we found out what it's like to take one of the greatest plays of all time around the country.

Q. How are you finding being in a Noël Coward production?

Tom Chambers
 - It's such an exquisite piece of writing because in our society we have such manners and etiquette and grace with each other, but behind closed doors you can have these times in your relationships when you're absolutely vile to each other! I think the most exquisite difference for us, as performers is that it's not like an argument that you'd see on Eastenders, it's an argument where the flare, wit, style, the sheer mental spark of dialogue between the characters is so rich.

Charlotte Ritchie
 - I think that's the most appealing thing about this play, it's got this amazing rhythm to it, that is almost intimidating because I'm definitely not as eloquent in my real life as my character amazingly manages to be! I do believe that Noël Coward was probably as eloquent as that, if you were to have a conversation with him, you wouldn't be able to keep up. That's been one of the hardest things just getting our heads around understanding how people could be so quick witted and retort immediately that has been really fun but also tricky.

Charlotte Ritchie and Tom Chambers outside Richmond Theatre

Q. With such a quick repertoire, do you fear forgetting the lines?

CR - it's scary when that happens! It is heart wrenching but someone does try to save you.

TC - But that's the lovely thing about live Theatre, it such a unique experience that any night can be slightly different, for example the phone rang one night in act two in a completely random place while I was playing the piano and you just have to deal with that situation.

Q. How are you finding performing in the big, wide theatres, was that a bit daunting?

CR - Well the play was designed to be performed in smaller theatres as there are moments of real intimacy, some of the stage directions are very specific an example being when Elyot winks at Amanda and you hope that people get the feeling of it but in such a huge theatre, it can sometimes be difficult to keep the realism and the naturalism. It's been nice learning to regain a sense of reality and not scream at people but Richmond is lovely, I can't wait.

TC - You're very lucky to have such a gorgeous Theatre, you really are. The challenge for us is that every venue is going to be completely different, so there's always an adjustment.

Q. How are audiences reacting to the show?

TC - There's such a great relationship between the audience and the people on stage. The director can only do so much in making it meaningful, truthful, sparky and witty but it's only when you have an audience there that you realise if you can push things or not. We're really starting to find our feet now so by the time we get to Richmond, oh my word we'll be flying! You better get those tickets in pretty quickly!

We couldn't have said it better ourselves! Don't miss your chance to enjoy this glittering production of Noël Coward's Private Lives shimmering on to our stage from Mon 15 - Sat 20 February.