With wit and panache, Noël Coward skewered his peers – the urbane, entitled and sophisticated set – in one hilarious and engaging stage work after another. Writing strong, smart female characters, who often conflicted with polished and well-mannered – if unscrupulous – men, Coward entertained audiences of all generations with clever banter, delightful situations and timeless characters. He also captured the heart of his audiences with poignant romances and soul-stirring melodramas.
Here are just a few of his delightful shows to add some elegance and lively repartee to your theatre season.
Bitter Sweet (US/UK)
(Full-Length Musical, Drama / 2m, 12f)
Everything that wealthy London society had to offer a properly brought-up girl lay at the feet of little Sarah Millick in 1875; but she fell so desperately in love with her handsome young singing master that she threw it all away in order to be with him. Five poverty-stricken years later, her adored Carl is killed, but his music lives on as the self-reliant Sarah earns fame throughout Europe with her singing. Years later, at a madly bright party in the late 1920s, she tells her story.
Blithe Spirit (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 2m, 5f)
The fussy, cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine is remarried but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira, who is summoned by a visiting “happy medium.” As the worldly and unworldly personalities clash, Charles’ current wife, Ruth, is accidentally killed, joining Elvira, and the two “blithe spirits” haunt the hapless Charles into perpetuity.
Private Lives (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 2m, 3f)
Elyot and Amanda, once married and now honeymooning with new spouses at the same hotel, meet by chance, reignite the old spark, and impulsively elope. After days of being reunited, they again find their fiery romance alternating between passions of love and anger. Their aggrieved spouses appear, and a roundelay of affiliations ensues. The women stick together, then come apart, and new partnerships are formed.
Still Life (US/UK)
(Short Play, Drama / 6m, 5f)
This deeply touching romance was the basis for the hit film Brief Encounter. In a suburban rail station, Dr. Harvey removes a cinder from Laura’s eye, and they fall in love. Subsequent weekly meetings over tea, scenes debating respectability or love, and some sentimental moments transpire before they decide they must part forever.
This Was A Man (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Drama / 6m, 3f)
Edward Churt is a successful painter. His wife Carol has a “vivid personality composed of a minimum of intellect and a maximum of sex.” Increasingly aware of her infidelity, Edward defends himself with a veneer of sophisticated insouciance. But his best friend and army comrade is determined to avenge him.
Waiting in the Wings (US/UK)
(Full-Length Play, Comedy / 4m, 14f)
This tribute to theatre is set in a retirement home for actresses, all former stars. Jealousies abound, especially between Lotta and another thespian who was also married to her former husband. A tragedy brings them to their senses, and a new solarium brings out everyone’s good nature.