By Helena Snider and Helen Chatterton
Last week Noel Coward’s comedy Private Lives played at the Gala Theatre, starring Jack Hardwick as leading character Elyot. Between performances, Hardwick took the time to answer a series of questions about the production.
What appealed to you about Coward’s Private Lives?
My first real taste of Coward was whilst training at drama school when we did Hay Fever, and since then I have loved his work. I saw the 2013 West End run of Private Lives with Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens, and absolutely loved it. From that moment I added it to my list of parts I’d like to play. It’s fast-paced, quick-witted and the writing is brilliant.
The play is set in 1930, do you see it to have any relevance to current affairs?
Although it was written and set in the 1930s, what’s incredible is that it can still feel and sound as if it was written for today’s audience, it really is timeless. It is a snapshot into people’s private worlds, how they act, what they say, essentially how they relax behind closed doors, and I think audiences then and now find that fascinating. It’s like a live version of reality shows like Big Brother, Love Island or even Gogglebox, which currently are very popular.
Your character, Elyot, has been played by Noel Coward himself, as well as by hugely successful actors such as the late, great Alan Rickman. What do you think is the appeal of this alluring role?
Huge shoes to fill.
I think the fact the writing is so brilliant and it’s a widely celebrated play makes it extremely appealing for any actor. Coward wrote himself a confident, funny, stylish character. Who wouldn’t want to follow in his footsteps!
And of course, who you are acting alongside with as Amanda can be hugely appealing. If the dynamic is right then it makes it equally exciting and extremely enjoyable.
What is your interpretation of Elyot as a character? How did you find embodying the character, and were there any difficulties?
When looking back at the incredible actors that have played the role before, many of them were older than described in the script, and understandably so, as in today’s life and times you would consider someone who has been married for three years and divorced for five to be older than 30. By the casting of this production sticking to the ages in the script, we have a truer picture of Coward’s vision, coming at it from a more youthful perspective.
Elyot is an incredibly laid back, effortlessly stylish, and confident character. But coming into contact with certain other characters his temper can flare and he has no problem speaking his mind. Getting to explore these characteristics made rehearsals highly enjoyable.
Although the script has many Coward tongue twisters, and due to the fast-paced nature of the show it’s taken a lot of practice to be able to get the words out!!
John Lahr of the New Yorker described Private Lives as a “Plotless play for purposeless people”. How accurate do you think this is?
I think that is partly accurate, yes. It’s a snapshot of people’s private lives in the 1930s, which is why I think it’s so successful. People are fascinated [by] other people’s lives, especially characters of different social classes, and I think Coward really tapped into that. Act II was Coward’s version of Big Brother in 1930, you witness the best and worst times of these characters, nothing really happens but everything unfolds before your eyes.
Why should people see the play?
I think everyone should see at least one Coward play in their life, he is a massive part of historical culture, and there’s no better play than Private Lives. Our production fast-paced, quick-witted, and stylish.
You have appeared in both TV shows (Misfits, Law and Order) and plays. Which do you prefer and why?
Both are extremely different styles of acting, so I don’t really have a preference. Every job you do is totally different and calls upon different techniques, so to be able to do both and continue learning my craft on each job is extremely rewarding.
What has been your favourite role to date?
Every role I’ve played holds a special place for me, but playing Peter in The Railway Children in Kings Cross was a highlight. Having grown up reading the book and then being able to actually be one of the Railway Children in the most spectacular setting was incredible. Sharing a stage with a real life 60 tonne stream engine was amazing!
Is there a city you are particularly excited to play to?
I’m going to have to say St. Albans, as it’s my home town! It will be amazing to have my secondary school drama teacher, who got me into acting in the first place, sitting in the audience!
Finally, if you could play any part (film or theatre) what would you choose and why?
Ooh hard question!
There are lots of parts I’d like to play, and the more plays I read/see the longer the list gets, I’m not sure I could pick just one.
You can follow Jack on Twitter @JackHardwick86
Photograph: Paul Marotta via Flickr and Creative Commons