IT may have only four main characters, but Noel Coward’s Private Lives was an ambitious choice for the London Repertory Players’ third play of the summer at Boscombe.

It is a play that requires us to believe we are in a glamorous hotel in Deauville and then a chic apartment in Paris – no mean feat in such a small theatre. And it asks the cast to deliver some of Coward’s sharpest dialogue as characters fall in love, quarrel, fall out of love and fall back in, without ever quite losing the audience’s sympathy.

Real-life couple Mark Spalding and Barbara Dryhurst generate a real chemistry as the divorcees who meet again when they are both honeymooning with their new partners at the same hotel. Equally impressive , as the pair's current spouses, are Hephzibah Roe and Al Wadlan (who was playing the lead in the company’s previous production 4,000 Days until Tuesday). And there is an excellent, scene-stealing turn from Jessica Olim, speaking only French as a maid who interrupts proceedings at a crucial juncture.

This is the quintessential Coward. The one where characters really do sip cocktails, wear dressing gowns and dispense rapid-fire witticisms in clipped English. It would be easy for a production to come across as a parody of Coward, but director Vernon Thompson avoids that trap. The characters may speak in perfectly crafted sentences, but beneath the sophisticated veneer is dangerous passion, and this show conveys that superbly. And it is all delivered at such a smart pace that the curtain falls before you know it.

* Private Lives runs until Tuesday, and is followed by the Francis Durbridge thriller House Guest on Thursday, August 22.