Design for Living

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Previewed 3 September 2010, Opened 15 September 2010, Closed 27 November 2010 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of Noel Coward's play Design for Living in London at the Old Vic Theatre starring Tom Burke, Lisa Dillon and Andrew Scott and directed by Anthony Page.

From 1930s bohemian Paris to the dizzying heights of Manhattan society, a tempestuous love triangle unravels between three egotistical, beguiling and self-absorbed characters: a vivacious interior designer, Gilda; playwright Leo; and artist Otto - three people unashamedly and passionately in love with each other and who who challenge the moral boundaries of relationships.

"I love you. You love me - You love Otto. I love Otto - Otto loves you. Otto loves me"

The cast for this production of Design for Living in London stars Tom Burke as 'Otto', Lisa Dillon as 'Gilda' and Andrew Scott as 'Leo' along with Nancy Crane, Edward Dede, Matthew Gammie, John Hollingworth, Maggie McCarthy, Maya Wasowicz and Angus Wright. It is directed by Anthony Page with designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Paul Groothuis. Lisa Dillon's West End credits include Anthony Page's revival of Henrik Insen's The Master Builder (Noel Coward Theatre 2003). Anthony Page's other London directing credits include Edward Albee's The Lady From Dubuque (Haymarket Theatre 2007) starring Dame Maggie Smith and Catherine McCormack, Tennessee Williams' The Night Of The Iguana (Lyric Theatre 2006) starring Woody Harrelson, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Apollo Theatre 2006) starring Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin, and Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (Apollo Theatre 2004) starring Jonathan Pryce.

Director Anthony Page said: "I love this play for the miraculous lightness of the dialogue which contains a huge range of passions. The central relationship - the involvement of two bisexuals and a girl - is no longer shocking as it was the 30s, when it had to be presented in a somewhat coded fashion for the play to be performed. But Noel Coward's unsentimental clarity in his analysis of their passion for each other and for success - and the way this brings them pain and ecstasy over the years - has the brilliance of a classic dark comedy."

"Understatement is part of what it is to be a professional actor. Less is more. Once in a while, though, it is a tonic to see abandon in a cast. Anthony Page's sublime production of Design for Living has a free-for-all naturalness that intoxicatingly offsets Noel Coward's artifice and control... Lisa Dillon is wonderful as febrile Gilda... Tom Burke's Otto is robust, vulnerable and delicious; Andrew Scott's marvellous Leo... A gorgeous evening: impure delight." The Observer

"Of all Noel Coward's plays, Design for Living is one of the least frequently revived, yet it is surely the one that can still raise eyebrows and provoke pleasurably shocked laughter, even today... In the hands of the director Anthony Page, it now gets the superbly stylish revival it deserves... Lez Brotherston's wonderful sets play a key role here... Just beneath the manicured exterior, there was always a pure, amoral creative drive in Coward. This brilliant production shows him at his most elegantly, anarchically funny, playing havoc with the neat demarcations of monogamy, heterosexuality and convention." The Sunday Times

"Noel Coward's Design for Living is a funny and sad study of bisexuality: Otto and Leo love each other, but they also love Gilda, and she, in turn, loves them both. Coward kept it all ambiguous to the point of being abstruse for 1930s audiences and the Lord Chamberlain, but Anthony Page, the director of this good-looking revival, feels, rightly, that it ought to be possible to be more articulate in 2010... Top marks for effort, but it is ultimately an odd, anachronistic and unsatisfactory play, malformed and twisted as much by Coward's steadfast refusal to come clean about his own sexuality as the mores of the time in which he wrote it." The Sunday Telegraph

"Under Anthony Page's direction, the whole thing is wonderfully good fun, helpful given that the running time is over three hours. The sumptuous Art Deco sets are also a treat, so much so that when the curtain came up on act three on press night, the audience gave the New York penthouse, complete with sweeping staircase and Manhattan skyline, its own round of applause. The leads - Andrew Scott as highly-strung Leo, Tom Burke as debonaire Otto and Lisa Dillon (from Cranford) as a vivacious Gilda - never miss an opportunity to exploit Coward's brittle humour. Scott and Burke, in particular, make a hilarious comedy pairing. What is a little disconcerting is how Scott appears infinitely modern in his delivery and portrayal (with even a touch of Graham Norton) while the more languid Burke delivers a perfect period piece but it hardly detracts from the audience's overall enjoyment." The Daily Express

Initially banned in the UK, this provocative play returns to the London stage for the first time in over 15 years. Noel Coward's controversial play Design for Living was premiered, not in London, but in New York at Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway on 24 January 1933 where it enjoyed a four month run in a production that was directed by Noel Coward and starred Noel Coward as 'Leo', Lynn Fontanne as 'Gilda' and Alfred Lunt as 'Otto'. The play was then eventually staged in London at the Haymarket Theeatre in the West End on 25 January 1939 starring Diana Wynyard, Anton Walbrook and Alan Webb in a production which transferred to the Savoy Theatre in December 1939 but was then forced to close due to the outbreak of World War II. Design for Living was most recently revived in London's West End in a production directed by Sean Mathias opening at the Donmar Warehouse on 6 September 1994 starring Rachel Weisz as 'Gilda', Clive Owen as 'Otto' and Paul Rhys as 'Leo'. The production closed on 5 November 1994 and was then subsequently restaged in February 1995 at the Gielgud Theatre with Rupert Graves taking over as 'Otto' and Marcus d'Amico as 'Leo' joining Rachel Weisz where it enjoyed a four month run.

Design for Living in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 3 September 2010, opened on 15 September 2010 and closed on 27 November 2010.