Private Lives at The Mill at Sonning
Transformation is the buzzword at The Mill at Sonning.The word’s dictionary definition is ‘a dramatic change in form or appearance’, and at the Mill it comes in spades.

As this is a theatre review, its latest production, Noel Coward’s classic comedy of manners, must take priority.

Set in 1930s France, designer Michael Holt’s terrace overlooking the Mediterranean in Deaville quickly and cleverly transforms into a sumptuous apartment in Paris.

Transformations continue with the characters themselves. Blissfully in love with their new partners, divorced couple Elyot and Amanda find themselves in adjoining rooms while on their respective honeymoons. They then discover they still love each other, but run the whole gamut of emotions when they begin to realise why they divorced in the first place and transform from dewy-eyed lovers to arch enemies, vindictive and vicious.

As Elyot and Amanda, Darrell Brockis and Eva Jane Willis are a match made in Heaven. The production begins at a rather slow pace and the first act dragged a little on opening night, but it certainly gathered momentum once these two started bouncing off each other, especially Willis as the vivacious Amanda. And by halfway through the second act it was positively flying, thanks in part to director Tam Williams, and with some very entertaining (and physical) scenes, delivered with the help of fight director Alison de Burgh.

Musical interludes from Brockis and Willis, sounding remarkably like Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, together with a Gallic contribution from musical director (and convincing French maid) Celia Cruwys-Finnigan - complete with beret, striped top and accordion - add an extra, and welcome, dimension.

As Amanda’s new husband Victor and Elyot’s new wife Sibyl, Tom Berkeley and Lydea Perkins begin the evening as rather irritating: Victor a bit too nice, though and Sibyl petulant and immature, but they certainly rise to the challenge laid down by Noel Coward and their final scene is something to behold. Another transformation indeed!

And so the theme continues. For the Mill, although an historic, indeed listed, and unique Thameside dinner-theatre venue, is being transformed, not only with an ongoing and tasteful refurbishment (copper bowls in the ladies’ loo!) but also with a varied programme which now incorporates not only its ever popular productions and series of Sunday night concerts but also daytime functions such as a book club, Knit & Natter, storytimes for little ones, afternoon tea events, and comedy & magic. And it is licensed to hold weddings. Already famous for its all inclusive two-course dinners, it now even adds dinner party catering in your own home as well as a new bar menu. Certainly a venue with star quality!

Private Lives is at The Mill at Sonning until August 3.
Box Office: 0118 969 8000
Picture: Andreas Lambis