With its snogging and grubby underwear the show infuriated Coward purists, but there was never any danger of being bored. Words tumble out of his mouth in torrents when his will is thwarted.
Their bliss though is shaken by the return of the boys, practically twins in matching pyjamas and still exerting an inexplicable hold over Gilda. The two men, it is clear, have also enjoyed a passionate intimacy that predates Gilda.
And, although with two intervals and a running time over three hours the evening could do with some trimming, it is elegantly designed by Lez Brotherston and nicely lit by David Hersey. Gilda welcomes Ernest, an art dealer who is a precise dullard though, at the end, Angus Wright in this role suddenly turns him into Basil Fawlty on a bad day. It is a sexual free-for-all that, though presumably less explicitly realised at the time, must have felt very modern, almost to the extent of offending the Lord Chamberlain when it was first produced in the 1930s. You simply can’t understand why the chaps fancy her so much. Rating: * *. Last time Noel Coward's 1932 comedy was given a major revival, at the Donmar in 1994, it was presented as a raunchy, unashamed hymn to bisexuality and the delights of a menage a trois. Here however they seem like little more than tiresomely squabbling infants, puffed up with self-regard and largely failing to generate much humour from Coward’s dialogue, which in any case finds the Master at far from the top of his game. Cut to a New York penthouse filled with fine art and furnishings and a stunning view of midtown Manhattan, confirming that designer Lez Brotherston will be on prize shortlists come the end of the year. Not only does this bring out their insolent, quicksilver humour, but it makes the sudden unexpected depths in the comic shallows seem all the more startling. Anthony Page's revival boasts a magnificent triptych of sets and fine acting, particularly from Lisa Dillon in the pivotal role of Bohemian interior designer Gilda. Initially banned in the UK, this provocative play returns to the London stage for the first time in over 15 years.
As the action moves to London and New York and the characters go up in the world, the sexual permutations and combinations intensify, to the mounting disapproval of the trio's art-dealer friend, Ernest.
As such, Design for Living deserves to fill the mighty Old Vic for the duration of the run, which lasts until the end of November.
Noël Coward Old Vic (2010) Share: Design for Living may not be one of Noël Coward's better known plays but it is characteristic and, at times, extremely funny. Normally he is played as the stuffed shirt and the spokesman for the moral majority. Design for Living. While Miss Dillon is deliciously decadent throughout the three hours, Andrew Scott and Tom Burke become increasingly camp members of this kinky ménage à trois. It is also frequently laugh out loud funny, though underlying the humour is real heart, as, in turn, Gilda disappoints and devastates each of her menfolk, and, in doing so, herself. News, reviews, features and podcast on theatre across the UK. Otherwise this revival proves more of a punishing endurance test than a pleasure. Limited company registration no. With their egocentricity and lofty condescension to those they regard as their inferiors, there are always moments in Design for Living when you feel like wringing the necks of Gilda, Otto, and Leo. Old Vic, London Michael Billington. Far better than the principals are Angus Wright as Gilda’s devoted but disapproving future husband, who brings real hurt and anger to the stage, and Maggie McCarthy as a delightfully comic charlady. Members of Extra can save £10 when they buy top price tickets for performances until 25 September. To find out more, go to theguardian.com/extra, Self-discovery: Angus Wright as Ernest, Tom Burke as Otto, Lisa Dillon as Gilda and Andrew Scott as Leo Photograph: Tristram Kenton. When he utters the line “I am free!” one might just as well be watching John Inman in Are You Being Served, though the pair’s drunk-scene when Gilda dumps then both offers one of the evening’s very few moments of comic joy. It is perfectly possible to see the play as Coward's vindication of the privileged amorality of the artist and an attack on bourgeois stuffiness. However, there are differences, including Maggie McCarthy scene stealing as judgemental maid Miss Hodge. Shop for Vinyl, CDs and more from Design For Living at the Discogs Marketplace.
If Design for Living needed to be summed up in a single line, Gilda does so while describing the motivations of the central trio: "Our lives are diametrically opposed to ordinary social conventions". As Gilda, Lisa Dillon, an actress I have often admired, seems less like a femme fatale than a neurotic housewife who has run out of Prozac, entirely missing the dangerous allure that Rachel Weisz and Janie Dee have brought to the role. But Anthony Page's infinitely subtler, and funnier, revival reminds us that Coward's cosmopolitan hedonism was always matched by an inbuilt puritanism, and that the play offers a genuine contest between the bohemian talentocracy and moral orthodoxy. Tom Burke plays Otto as a hearty hooray who seems bland even when supposedly in the coils of sexual jealousy while Andrew Scott’s Leo comes on like a squeaky-voiced, petulantly camp schoolboy. Anthony Page's revival boasts a magnificent triptych of sets and fine acting, particularly from Lisa Dillon in the pivotal role of Bohemian interior designer Gilda. But, from the start, when he complains that Gilda's life is "so dreadfully untidy", Wright proves the importance of being Ernest; and, at the play's climax, when he is finally excluded, Wright runs around the stage with a windmilling despair suggesting the price of the trio's self-discovery is pain for other people. There is almost no sense of the lust, jealousy and hurt that seethes beneath the banter of the egocentric central characters.
Design for Living 4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars. But Anthony Page's infinitely subtler, and funnier, revival reminds us that Coward's cosmopolitan hedonism was always matched by an inbuilt puritanism, and that the play offers a genuine contest between the bohemian talentocracy and moral orthodoxy. The real revelation lies in Angus Wright's portrait of Ernest. For a start, Lisa Dillon's Gilda is no mere femme fatale, but a wild, restless and unhappy woman who feels marginalised both by her lack of material success and by being the sexual outsider in a world of male attachment. Sixteen years ago Sean Matthias directed a revival of Design for Living at the Donmar Warehouse that brought out all the passion and wild amorality implicit in … Miss Dillon is really at her best when unsuccessfully using brittle subterfuge to hide her numerous guilty secrets before eventually "coming out" in the play's final scene. I’ve seen productions of Ibsen that offered more laughs. What Dillon shows, with great elan, is Gilda's growing independence and a realisation that only when the trio face the truth about themselves can she ever be an equal partner. But Page's production shows something more complex. But if their quips make you laugh and their sexual desire pulsates, you can forgive them a lot. Extra is the membership scheme for readers of the Guardian and the Observer. The actors lack charm in this plodding ponderous production that turns this disconcerting comedy into a three-hour trudge. Share on Facebook; Sixteen years ago Sean Matthias directed a revival of Design for Living at the Donmar Warehouse that brought out all the passion and wild amorality implicit in Coward’s bisexual comedy in which the three central characters, Otto a painter, Leo, a playwright, and Gilda, an interior designer, are irresistibly drawn to each other and eventually form a ménage-a-trois. In contrast Anthony Page directs with a plodding ponderousness that turns this disconcerting comedy into a three-hour trudge. Lisa Dillon, Tom Burke and Andrew Scott as Gilda, Otto, and Leo in Design for Living at the Old Vic, Airport testing could catch six in 10 Covid carriers, research suggests, Questor: this trust has lost 20pc – but we’re still betting on double-digit gains, FBI revelation conjures nightmare scenarios for how Iran and Russia could cause chaos this election, Russia and Iran attempts to shape US election outcome 'should surprise nobody'. Andrew Scott plays Leo, hilariously, as an overgrown child given to tantrums. It starts in a Paris studio and clearly lays out the main lines of engagement: Gilda, an interior decorator, is living with the artist Otto, but is equally drawn to the playwright Leo. After the first interval, we move to the lavish, art deco London flat of Leo. Gilda's problem is that rather than sharing her non-marital bed with its usual incumbent, she has swapped him for their best friend Leo, played by Andrew Scott as a precious panicker of the Stan Laurel ilk. What one notices first about the play is its perfect symmetry. Old Vic Associate Anthony Page directs Tom Burke, Lisa Dillon and Andrew Scott in Noel Coward’s wickedly witty, dark romantic comedy, Design for Living. God, this is a long and largely unrewarding slog. Design for Living may not be one of Noël Coward's better known plays but it is characteristic and, at times, extremely funny. What’s disastrously absent here is the required spark of sexuality. Coward wrote the play as a vehicle to allow him to have a wild time on stage with his very good friends, husband and wife Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. When the scenery gets a round of applause at the start of the third act, it is clear that this is dull, conscientious museum theatre, rather than a period drama viewed with passion, insight and an urgent desire to make the audience see the work afresh.
He co-habits with Gilda but, in a subverted repetition of Act 1, Otto reappears to set the cat amongst the pigeons. Design for Living is a brave play that explores unorthodox attitudes to sexual ambiguity from every angle. 1072590. @billicritic Wed 15 Sep 2010 19.48 EDT First published on Wed 15 Sep 2010 19.48 EDT. Just as damagingly, the actors lack charm. In short, this is a production that unearths Coward's moral ambivalence. All is revealed with the return of a devastated Otto but life can never be quite the same. Registered offices: 103 The Cut, London, SE1 8NB I once suggested that Coward was a puritan dandy with a Martini in one hand and a moral sampler in the other; and this shrewd and lively production suggest there may be more than a grain of truth in that remark. This evening has the highest production values, strong acting and much good humour. This is the home of Ernest and Gilda, by now married. Explore releases from Design For Living at Discogs. ast time Noel Coward's 1932 comedy was given a major revival, at the Donmar in 1994, it was presented as a raunchy, unashamed hymn to bisexuality and the delights of a menage a trois.