STRONG passions and even stronger personalities set the stage for a classic battle of the sexes in Noël Coward’s comedy, Private Lives, which opens today for a three-night run.

Set in 1930 in Deauville, France, two newly-married couples occupy adjoining honeymoon suites in the same hotel. Champagne flows and the sea shimmers in the moonlight as the newlyweds prepare for the evening ahead.

But when Amanda overhears a familiar voice singing a forgotten song, an old spark reignites, with spectacular consequences.

Full of razor-sharp wit and quick-fire dialogue, this play that was written in just three days, is Noël Coward’s most popular and enduring stage comedy.

Actress Olivia Beardsley who plays Sibyl Chase says she is a brilliant character. “She is the most perfect mix of vulnerability, naivety and femininity, however she is also completely ridiculous at times. Bubbling away under the surface is always a sense of restraint which feels like a mask on top of a woman pushed into a mould but secretly dying to let loose.

“Every night I find new things within her and how she looks at the world, the other characters, herself and her reactions.” She’s crazy and changeable and I love her.”

But Olivia says the role isn’t without its challenges.

“The dialogue is fast-paced throughout the play to capture Coward’s original vision of this work. Reflecting this, vocally our warm ups each day are vigorous to make sure that we are clear and understandable in all the different venues we play to.”

Asked why she thinks this play has such enduring appeal she said: “It captures what people are like when they are in their most private states. That fascinating world between the seen and the unseen, the mask we put on for the public and the truth beneath when we are alone.

“I think it’s fascinating that we always think of the past in a very rose tinted way, but really, people in 1930 behaved in private much like we do now, there was still intrigue and drama. It’s fascinating to feel like you’re let in on a secret, the private moments of people’s lives.”

n Private Lives runs at Lighthouse until Saturday.