Elyot and Amanda delve into some 'Private Lives'

Actors Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor stars of Noël Coward’s steamy comedy ‘Private Lives’, turn agony uncle and aunt for Time Out

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© Ed Marshall

It’s the ultimate romantic dilemma: Elyot and Amanda, the heroes of Noël Coward’s saucy classic ‘Private Lives’, are a divorced couple who discover the spark’s still there after meeting while on honeymoon with their new spouses. So who better to dish out relationship advice to some of literature’s more hopeless romantic conundrums than Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor, who play Coward’s lovers as ‘Private Lives’ returns to the West End?

Dear Elyot and Amanda,

I’ve found my one true love, but our families hate each other and I can’t get anywhere near my beau. What should I do?
Juliet Capulet, Verona


Toby Stephens (Elyot) ‘Elope and go somewhere charming with this young man. It’s obviously not going well where you are.’
Anna Chancellor (Amanda) ‘Oh no, she needs to be a bit more circumspect. Keep everyone on tenterhooks. Sneak out of the house, late at night, sleep as little as possible, stay rather elusive. Make sure no one really knows where you are, including your boyfriend. You want to have a lot of chasing going on.’
TS ‘Chasing is too exhausting. Just go somewhere lovely. Maybe to the Dalmatian Coast.’

Dear Elyot and Amanda,

The guy I like is the Prince of Denmark, but he’s being a bit of a nightmare at the moment (I’m sure it’s hormones). My dad says he’s mad and to stay away, but I think he’s great. Any help?
Ophelia, Elsinore


AC ‘Even if he is mad, I’d say go for it, because one day you can be Queen of Denmark. When that happens you’ll have plenty of houses so you can just hide away in one of those. Just make sure that when he’s allocating his houses, you get the really good one. Go for the fine property and the good jewels.’
TS ‘Red lights are flashing for me: Denmark and mental illness. He’s obviously depressed because there’s no sunlight out there. You should just forget all about him. I know he’s the prince and everything, but that novelty will wear off when he’s moping about and contemplating suicide.’

Dear Elyot and Amanda,

I’ve been having some very strange urges when it comes to horses and I keep going out for naked midnight bareback rides. Am I normal?
Alan Strang, Equus Stables, Suffolk


AC ‘Perfectly. I wouldn’t worry about anything. It’s all fine.’
TS ‘Stay well clear of horses. If you do anything like that with them they’ll end up kicking you very hard.’
AC ‘Oh, yes, I hadn’t thought about that. And you’ll have to do all the mucking out, which is such hard work. Wait, does that sound rude?’

Dear Elyot and Amanda,

I think I’m in love with my adopted brother. He’s rather moody, though, and has no education or money, which really irritates me. What should I do?
Cathy Earnshaw, Wuthering Heights

TC ‘That’s all right as long as you’re not directly related. I mean, it’s not ideal, but as long as he’s pretty, why not? There’s no legal impediment and as far as I can tell no moral one.’
AC ‘He’s a very bad idea. He’s got an unpleasant temper and, so it seems, have you. Go and get some anger management therapy or whatever it’s called. And think of the impact on your family!’



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