Time Out London Interview and Photos (Feb 2010)

Time Out London has a new photo (credit Nobby Clark) from Private Lives as well as a new interview which Matthieu has scanned


'Private Lives' laid bare

Noel Coward's comedy of manners returns to the West End this week starring Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfadyen.  Sam Marlowe presses them on sex, dancing and silk pyjamas

We know her best as the super-chic maneater Samantha Jones from 'Sex and the City'; he's played a string of intense characters on television and was Mr Darcy to Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Bennet in 'Pride and Prejudice' on the big screen in 2006.  But when I meet Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfadyen at the tail end of rehearsals for Noel Coward's 'Private Lives', both are a little frayed around the edges.  Filming in Marrakech for the second 'Sex and the City' film ran over, which meant Cattrall had to jump on a plane and head for London straight away to begin work on Richard Eyre's production.  While she's been slipping into the silk pyjamas of Coward's glamorous Amanda Prynne, she's also been publicising 'The Ghost', Roman Polanski's new film, in which she stars alongside Ewan McGregor; and as soon as 'Private Lives' finishes its run, she'll be launched into a gruelling regime of 'SATC' press junkets. She arrives for out interview pale, exquisite and exhausted; Macfadyen, meanwhile, has a streaming cold and a bad back.  But put them together, and suddenly the sun comes out: they are tactile, flirtatious and as playful as a pair of kittens, and frequently make each other roar with laughter.  It looks as though, in Coward's glittering comedy of impossible passions, there's going to be some serious chemistry onstage.

That rapport's been building through rehearsals which have included plenty of work on stage- fighting and dancing- Cattrall teases Macfadyen about treading on her toes; he claims he's got the bruises to prove she shows him no mercy.  And as characters, Amanda and her ex-husband Elyot Chase, who together flee unexciting second marriages when they meet on adjoining French balconies during their respective honeymoons, are hard to resist, despite their multitude of flaws.

'They're very unsympathetic in many ways,' says Macfadyen.  'I mean Elyot's a shit- an awful, selfish baby.'

'A pig,' adds Cattrall emphatically.

'Yeah.  But then they're attractive, because they kind of don't give a fuck.  They allow themselves to live in the present.'

'I just think we recognise the worst part of ourselves in them,' rejoins Cattrall, to vigorous affirmation from Macadyen: 'Especially the rowing.  You see yourself and your own relationships, when you have those big barneys that turn on a sixpence.  It's so beautifully written, it feels very modern- not dusty at all.'

It is also, of course, very English, so Cattrall- who, though born near Liverpool grew up largely in Canada, lives in New York and is, thanks to SATC, strongly associated with the Big Apple- might not seem the most obvious casting.  In fact, she plans to put down roots in London and says she doesn't 'feel American'; she's been honing the RP accent she laboured on for Polanski's film and studying 'Brief Encounter'.  When Macfadyen admits he's never seen David Lean's Coward film, she offers to buy it for him as a first-night gift; he reciprocates, blue eyes dancing, with the promise of 'a DVD box set of all my work'- to include the harrowing 'Criminal Justice', the Peter Moffat TV drama in which he starred last year.  Which was that, Cattrall enquires. 'The one where I played the creepy barrister anally raping my wife' comes the breezy reply. 'Oh God!'

That role, like Austen's Darcy, was one of a slew that Macfadyen describes as 'unsmiling, buttoned-up Englishman, when'- adopting ludicrous luvvie voice- 'there's a clown inside of me'.  He's relishing the opportunity, in 'Private Lives', to indulge that inner clown.  Discussing their working relationship with Richard Eyre, he tells me, poker-faced: 'It's terribly difficult when someone's drunk all the time,' at which both he and Cattrall dissolve into hysterics before offering the more conventional glowing testimonials.  But there's genuine trepidation too- both actors speak of the 'slalom race' the play presents, its breakneck pace, the risk of missing their dramatic footing and being unable to pick themselves up again.  But the mood never darkens for long.  'I had a big wobble in the shower about my pyjamas this morning,' confesses Macfadyen. 'No, I know how that sounds, but I did- I have to wear them in the second act and I'm worried about them...'

'Darling, you're going to look gorgeous.  They'll bring out the colour of your eyes,' purrs Cattrall.  'But yes, we are scared...'

'Terribly scared,' says Macfadyen, his voice a clipped, cut-glass comic cliche.  'But blissfully happy.'

'Private Lives' is currently at Bath Theatre Royal and runs at Vaudeville Theatre from Feb 24.  See West End.

Time Out London Feb 18-24, 2010

Time Out  London Interview and Photos (Feb 2010)