Theatregoers on this side of the Atlantic are used to associating actors Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman with one another. Prior to the duo's current engagement as Elyot and Amanda in Private Lives, the pair graced Broadway in Les Liasons Dangereuses. (The plays are, in fact, Rickman's only Broadway appearances; Duncan has made one other.) In both shows, the actors play former lovers who possess equal shares of love and hate for one another.
Duncan, who is nominated for a Tony Award as leading actress in a play, elaborated on the their long artistic collaboration and why it works so well: "We did a season together at Stratford years ago. So we were around each other as a company for year. And Liasons actually went on for a period of two years.
"We know each other well and, of course, we've been friends in the intervening years. We have probably similar tastes. If you play couples, it sort of sears itself in people's memories. The voyeuristic element in the audience thinks of you as a couple and people like to see you in relationships in film and on stage again and again. There's something very satisfying about it."
Duncan has never played Amanda prior to this staging of Noel Coward's classic comedy and never even contemplated the role—though it is on the resume of nearly every significant English actress.
"I don't have a shopping list of things to do," she reflected. "We had a very short rehearsal period. Just over three weeks. I had no preconceived ideas. I just approached it as I would anything. This is good writing. Let's start saying these words and see what happens. And this is what emerged. I never have a line on things. Some actors do. I don't. "