THE problem of a Noel Coward play is that his signature is stamped so indelibly on the production that there is always a hint of a museum piece being taken out and given an airing.

Private Lives is one of Coward's most popular comedies and this revival at the Octagon, Bolton, really tries to inject some freshness into the play without destroying its innate appeal.

The play centres around Elyot and Amanda, a couple who can't live with each other but can't do without one another. After divorcing they re-marry, end up in adjoining rooms on their honeymoons with new partners and things develop from there.

Susie Trayling as Amanda is excellent, capturing perfectly the feisty and wicked nature of a real minx of a woman.

Stephen Becket, best known as the GP with rather too much bedside manner in Coronation Street, is a physically commanding presence but appears too young to carry the role of Elyot off totally successfully.

The design of this production is excellent with an art deco set and striking costumes.

Dialogue is key to any Noel Coward revival and at times it rattled round the Octagon like a loose machine gun, giving the caustic wit maximum impact. You therefore have to wonder why two fairly long intervals are needed which slow down proceedings and hamper the tempo.

In spite of some wonderfully waspish dialogue, Private Lives remains primarily a period piece and although the Octagon's revival does inject some new life into it, it perhaps doesn't succeed at every level.

PRIVATE LIVES, Octagon Theatre, Bolton It runs until April 5. Details from the box office on 01204 566501.