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Summary

Seven BBC radio full-cast productions of Noël Coward’s classic plays – plus bonus material including a profile of Coward and extracts from his diaries. 

Renowned for his wit, style and sophistication, Noël Coward was one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century. His plays, set in the glittering world of high society in which he lived, are much admired and have remained in the popular theatre repertoire to this day.

This collection brings together the very best radio adaptations of Coward’s works, encompassing sparkling comedies of manners 'Private Lives' and 'Hay Fever', farcical ghost story 'Blithe Spirit', and daring ménage à trois drama 'Design for Living'. Here, too, is his controversial first hit 'The Vortex'; the poignant 'Still Life' (the inspiration for the film Brief Encounter); and the semi-autobiographical 'Present Laughter'.

Among the star-studded cast are Helena Bonham-Carter, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Roger Allam, Harriet Walter, Paul Rhys, Stephanie Cole and Paul Scofield.

Also included is a BBC World Service profile of Noël Coward, comprising interviews, musical extracts and archive clips; and the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘From His Diaries’, featuring a selection of passages from Coward’s journal read by Simon Cadell.
 

Track listing:

 1-2: Private Lives
3-4: Hay Fever
5-6: Blithe Spirit
7-10: Design for Living
11-12: The Vortex
13: Still Life
14-16: Present Laughter
17: Meridian: Noël Coward profile
18-20: Noël Coward - From His Diaries
 

Private Lives
Amanda…Helena Bonham-Carter
Elyot…Bill Nighy
Sibyl…Andrea Riseborough
Victor…Paul Ritter
Louise…AnnaRose Cattanach
Directed by Sally Avens
 

Hay Fever
Judith Bliss…Judi Dench
David Bliss…Michael Williams
Richard Greatham…Geoffrey Palmer
Marya Arundel…Celia Imrie
Jackie Coryton…Patricia Brake
Sandy Tyrell…Christopher Blake
Simon Bliss…Patrick Pearson
Sorel Bliss…Alison Reid
Qara…Patricia Hayes
Directed by Leslie Lawton
 

Blithe Spirit
Charles…Roger Allam
Madame Arcati…Maggie Steed
Elvira…Zoe Waites
Ruth…Hermione Gulliford
Dr Bradman…David Killick
Mrs Bradman…Tilly Tremayne
Edith…Natalie Cassidy
Directed by Philip Franks
 

Design for Living
Gilda…Cheryl Campbell
Otto…Alex Jennings
Leo…Michael Kitchen
Ernest Friedman…James Laurenson
Mr Birbeck…Alan Barker
Henry Carver…Bradley Lavell
Miss Hodge/Helen…Joanna Myers
Grace Torrence…Linda Marlowe
Directed by Ned Chaillet
 

The Vortex
Florence Lancaster…Harriet Walter
Nicky…Paul Rhys
Helen…Frances Jeater
Pawnie…John Rye
Clara Hibbert…Jenny Funnell
Tom Veryan…Robert Portal
David Lancaster…Peter Blythe
Bunty Mainwaring…Federay Holmes
Bruce Fairlight…Keith Drinkel
Preston…Pamela Grace
Directed by John Tydeman
 

Still Life
Laura Lesson…Amanda Root
Dr Alec Harvey…John Duttine
Myrtle Bagott…Stephanie Cole
Albert Godby…Trevor Peacock
Beryl Waters/Lady on Train…Sunny Ormonde
Stanley…Brian Parr
Dolly Messiter…Josephine Tewson
Bill…Richard Curnow
Johnny/Guard…Malcolm McKee
Directed by Sue Wilson
 

Present Laughter
Gary Essendine…Paul Scofield
Liz Essendine…Joy Parker
Monica Reed…Patricia Routledge
Joanna Lyppiatt…Fenella Fielding
Henry Lyppiatt…Alan Rowe
Morris Dixon…Bernard Joyner
Daphne Stillington…Miriam Margolyes
Lady Saltburn…Betty Huntley-Wright
Fred…Timothy Bateson
Miss Erikson…Diana Olsson
Roland Maule…David Timson
Produced by Ian Cotterell  

©2018 BBC Worldwide Ltd (P)2018 BBC Worldwide Ltd

What listeners say about The Noel Coward BBC Radio Drama Collection

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

No chapter titles!

I have only just downloaded it and I know they're good stories but it's infuriating that all you get is a list of numbered chapters. To me it's important to know when the end of the story is coming and how far through I am. I have to stress this is massive in my story enjoyment. There is no way to tell which chapters go with which books and I have to say that for the price this is extremely poor. It will enormously detract from my enjoyment. So much for relieving Lockdown boredom, I just feel annoyed. Please Audible, sort this out as it most definitely deters me from future purchases.

10 people found this helpful

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  • CB
  • 13-10-19

Great plays, poor technical production

I struggled to hear this because the sound level was so low.. Every time a lorry went past I had to rewind and catch up. I have never had this before and it doesn`t happen with other books etc.

3 people found this helpful

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Personally, I thought it was terrific

As a resource for improving and refining the language one uses on a daily basis, I thought these plays were wonderful. They won't keep you on the edge of your seat, but as far as artistic expression in the English language goes, they are delightful.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Too Noisy and very silly.

I only listened to one story and then not all of it. Although I love all of the actors - and they all played their parts very well - the story was so silly and they spoke in such shrill voices that when they all spoke at once it sounded like a gaggle of geese.

3 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

These are just brilliant. I listen over and over. Fabulous cast, excellent plays (of course) - these are very good listens and can be re-played as often as you like, Don't need to be surprised by shock endings. So entertaining. Definitely something I would go to the theatre to watch once lockdown is over, but it also recalls previous theatre evenings, sigh!
Fabulous.

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Sharp wit and characterisation

Some great plays and the readings from his diary add an understanding of where he was writing from

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Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant....

This is sublime - as an actor it must be so much fun bringing Noel Coward to life.

Would have loved to have seen Burton and Taylor do Private Lives....

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Excellent plays and high quality recordings

It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite play out of this selection, they are all truly brilliant and funny. The performances are all excellent from start to finish, a slew of greater than great actors performing some superb voice acting. I enjoyed the collection so much I am sad it is over, and the insights into Noel Coward’s life at the end were so interesting, and gave great context to the man himself. Highly recommended!!

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some of the best Coward performances

I was lucky enough to see Judi Dench in Hayfever in London..Would like to have had Stephen Fry and Gemma Jones BBC adaptation of Private Lives in this collection; I love Bill Nighy but not for Ellyot.

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Wonderful cast and great plays

The cast really bring the plots to life you feel like your in the room with them.

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  • R&K
  • 11-08-18

Some good plays...

Some good plays, some not. But all, performed by very fine actors. With a healthy dose of the playwright himself after you're done listening to the last play.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Anat Hoffman
  • 18-12-18

I loved it

Cowardis a charme.The cast was wonderful.couldnt stoplistening.Many great plays and a very good biography at the end

4 people found this helpful

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  • Stormsdream
  • 09-04-19

They know these are comedies, right?

While it is always possible the cast was being so droll that the humor escaped me, it really felt like they were treating the material with such reverence and acting so seriously that they plum forgot these were comedies.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Rory
  • 05-01-21

Great plays, crappy curation by audible

Fantastic performances but the chapter listings are a mess and don’t even say where one play begins and ends, and the scenes and acts don’t correspond to the chapters either. Can someone from audible fix this?