Friday 28 February 2020

Interview with actor Gareth Bennett-Ryan

Starring as the selfish yet charming Elyot Chace in Noël Coward's sparklingly witty play, Private Lives, actor Gareth Bennett-Ryan discusses the anticipated tour before its visit to the Everyman Theatre.

A story where extraordinary coincidence leads to utter hilarity, Noël Coward’s acclaimed play, Private Lives, is set to take to the Everyman’s stage from Tuesday 23 to Saturday 27 January 2018.

Discussing audience reactions, shocking one-liners and Private Lives' timeless appeal, actor Gareth Bennett-Ryan speaks to SoGlos about what to expect from the show.

The Private Lives tour starts this January; how are rehearsals going?

They’re going well; the two girls from the original cast are staying on, and me and Paul Sandys (playing Victor) are new. It’s really fun; it’s a really nice cast and the play is obviously great!

Can you tell our readers about the play?

It all centres around Elyot and Amanda, who are ridiculously in love but just can’t be around each other; they’re sort of like magnets – they attract each other, but they can’t spend more than an hour in each other’s company without wanting to rip each other’s head off!

The play starts with them both on their respective honeymoons with their respective new partners, and as it happens, they’ve booked into rooms right next to each other in France with adjoining balconies – an unbelievable coincidence!

They meet each other again, they run off and don’t tell their new partners who try to find them… and hilarity ensues.

How would you describe your character, Elyot Chace?

He isn’t a nice guy in a lot of ways, but you like him anyway. He’s very wealthy, selfish, petulant and quick to anger, but he can also be very sweet and charming as well.

Elyot throws off the social norms of the time. He speaks a lot about having a dislike for people who do things by the book, people that do what society expects of them – he’s not one of those people.

People can expect lots of laughter, lots of energy, and some very witty dialogue!

Do the issues in the play, such as society, still resonate today?

I guess so; obviously a lot has changed such as gender equality. Elyot completely treats Amanda as an equal, especially physically; they’re violent towards one another. Nowadays it’s a bit of the shock to the audiences.

He hits her, she hits him. He says things like ‘certain women should be struck regularly like gongs’ – I think modern day audiences, especially with everything that’s going on at the moment, they don’t really know how to react to that.

They don’t know whether to laugh or be appalled; I think it can be a bit confusing at certain points.

Would you say it’s a dark comedy?

No, it’s very light-hearted a lot of the time, and there’s a lot of silliness in it as well.

The production toured last year; what were the audiences’ reactions?

Helen (playing Amanda) had told me a bit about it and she said there’s lots of laughter! She has said it’s hard to keep up the pace at certain points because the audience is laughing so the cast has to wait for them. So that’s nice to hear!

What made you want to act in a Noël Coward play?

His work is really witty. Also, I’m from a working-class family in Grimsby, so this play is very far removed from me; all actors like playing characters that challenge them and are different. It’s much more interesting than playing yourself.

What can audiences expect from this adaptation of Private Lives?

Lots of laughter. Lots of energy, and some very witty dialogue!

Are you looking forward to coming back to the Everyman?

Yes! The London Classic Theatre opened Birthday Party there a couple of years ago and it’s a really beautiful theatre… and we get a discount in the café!

And finally, how would you summarise the play?

It’s love and hate colliding… but light-hearted and irreverent.

It’s genuinely really good – it’s a really well-loved play and there’s a reason it’s performed over and over. It’s usually on somewhere every year.

You’re bound to have a good night if you watch it!

For more information see Private Lives at Everyman Theatre, call (01242) 572573, or visit directly.

© SoGlos
Tuesday 09 January 2018

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