The Noël Coward Centenary, British theatres have been celebrating the Noël Coward Centenary during 1999, and many opportunities still exist to catch one of Coward’s classics on stage.
Coward personified the elegant insouciance of a playwright, actor, and well-travelled playboy for many decades. Born in 1899 he developed a star personality from the early ’20s. His huge output is celebrated in many ways this centenary year. Private Lives, dating from the late ’20s, is revived at the National Theatre. Costumes are smart, sets opulent. Juliet Stevenson delivers the famous quips elegantly–a glittery performance. The men are not so good: Coward, an icon of sophistication, originally wrote it for himself and Gertrude Lawrence. The second male lead was played by Laurence Olivier. (Lyttelton, 0171 452 3000.)
If it is still on in the West End, see Hay Fever, Coward’s 1925 comedy about bad manners. Coward found inspiration at a house party in Manhattan. As actress Mum, Geraldine McEwan is spectacularly funny. The play is ingeniously staged by Declan Donnelan and wittily designed by Nick Ormerod. (Savoy Theatre, 0171 836 8888.)
A huge musical in its original 1930 Drury Lane production, Cavalcade is revived in December at Glasgow Citizens. A new musical revue, Masterpieces, opens later this year in the West End.
Films being made include Relative Values with Julie Andrews, Stephen Fry and Colin Firth, Quadrille, and The Young Idea. A season of Coward films is at the National Film Theatre in London in December. And if you hurry you may still be able to snag tickets for the Noel Coward Scholarship Fund Gala at Drury Lane Theatre on Sunday, 24th October. How Sir Noël would have loved all the fuss!