Design for Living

Comedy by Noel Coward. "I love you. You love me - You love Otto. I love Otto - Otto loves you. Otto loves me" - 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.

1939: West End Premiere - Diana Wynyard / Rex Harrison / Anton Walbrook

1973: 1st West End Revival - Vanessa Redgrave / John Stride / Jeremy Brett

1982: 2nd West End Revival - Maria Aitken / Ian Ogilvy / Gary Bond

1994: London Revival - Rachel Weisz / Paul Rhys / Clive Owen

1995: 3rd West End Revival - Rachel Weisz / Marcus D'Amico / Rupert Graves

2010: 4th West End Revival - Lisa Dillon / Andrew Scott / Tom Burke

Noel Coward's other London theatre plays include Hay Fever; Blithe Spirit; Private Lives; Brief Encounter; Semi-Monde; Star Quality; Relative Values; Present Laughter; Fallen Angels; A Song At Twilight; Volcano; and The Vortex.


Original West End London Production 1939

Opened 25 January 1939, Closed 10 June 1939 at the Haymarket Theatre
Transferred 13 June 1939, Closed 22 July 1939 at the Savoy Theatre
Returned 23 December 1939, Closed 20 January 1940 at the Savoy Theatre

The cast at the Haymarket Theatre and the Savoy Theatre in June 1939 featured Diana Wynyard as 'Gilda', Rex Harrison as 'Leo', Anton Walbrook as 'Otto', and Alan Webb as 'Ernest Friedman', with Dorothy Hamilton as 'Miss Hodge', Everley Gregg as 'Grace Torrence', Cyril Wheeler as 'Mr Birbeck', Ross Landon as 'Henry Carver', Cathleen Cordell as 'Helen Carver', and James McIntyre as 'Matthew'.

The cast at the Savoy Theatre in December 1939 featured Diana Wynyard as 'Gilda', Rex Harrison as 'Leo', Anton Walbrook as 'Otto', and Alan Webb as 'Ernest Friedman', with Ella Milne as 'Miss Hodge', Dorothy Lane as 'Grace Torrence', Cyril Wheeler as 'Mr Birbeck', Ross Landon as 'Henry Carver', Kay Lewis as 'Helen Carver', and Charles Peters as 'Matthew'.

Directed by Harold French, with sets by Roger Furse.

Immediately following the closure at the Savoy Theatre in July 1939, the production, with the West End cast, went on a very successful five month regional tour which culminated in the production returning back to the Savoy Theatre for a final four-week West End run.


1st West End London Revival 1973

Previewed 20 November 1973, Opened 21 November 1973, Closed 8 June 1974 at the Phoenix Theatre

The cast featured Vanessa Redgrave as 'Gilda', John Stride as 'Leo', Jeremy Brett as 'Otto', and Peter Bayliss as 'Ernest Friedman', with Hazel Hughes as 'Miss Hodge', Yolanda Turner as 'Grace Torrence', Neil Wilson as 'Mr Birbeck', Christopher Malcolm as 'Henry Carver', Connie Booth as 'Helen Carver', Willie Jonah as 'Matthew', and Mark Dowse as 'the Photographer'.

Directed by Michael Blakemore, with designs by Michael Annals, and lighting by Robert Bryan.


2nd West End London Revival 1982

Previewed 16 June 1982, Opened 21 June 1982, Closed 24 July 1982 at the Greenwich
Previewed 3 August 1982, Opened 4 August 1982, Closed 5 February 1983 at the Globe Theatre

The cast at London's Greenwich Theatre and the West End's Globe Theatre featured Maria Aitken as 'Gilda', Ian Ogilvy as 'Leo', Gary Bond as 'Otto', and Roland Curram as 'Ernest Friedman', with Julia McCarthy as 'Miss Hodge', Helen Horton as 'Grace Torrence', Nicholas Tudor as 'Mr Birbeck', Jeff Harding as 'Henry Carver', Marilyn Cutts as 'Helen Carver', Andrew Francis as 'Matthew', and Jamie Sturgeon as 'the Photographer'.

Directed by Alan Strachan, with sets by Finlay James, costumes by Yuki, and lighting by Mick Hughes.

This was a co-production between Greenwich Theatre and the Birmingham Rep Theatre where this production, with the same cast, was staged from 13 May to 12 June 1982.


3rd West End London Revival 1995

Previewed 1 September 1994, Opened 6 September 1994, Closed 5 November 1994 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 14 February 1995, Opened 20 February 1995, Closed 10 June 1995 at the Gielgud Theatre

The cast at London's Donmar Warehouse featured Rachel Weisz as 'Gilda', Paul Rhys as 'Leo', Clive Owen as 'Otto', and Nicholas Clay as 'Ernest Friedman', with Johanna Kirby as 'Miss Hodge', Jan de Villeneuve as 'Grace Torrence', Jason Cheater as 'Mr Birbeck', Stuart Bennett as 'Henry Carver', Lou Gish as 'Helen Carver', and Chad Shepherd as 'Matthew'.

The cast at the West End's Gielgud Theatre featured Rachel Weisz as 'Gilda', Marcus D'Amico as 'Leo', Rupert Graves as 'Otto', and Nicholas Clay as 'Ernest Friedman', with Johanna Kirby as 'Miss Hodge', Jan de Villeneuve as 'Grace Torrence', Jason Cheater as 'Mr Birbeck', Mark Haddigan as 'Henry Carver', Lou Gish as 'Helen Carver', and Giles Tomlin as 'Matthew'.

Directed by Sean Mathias, with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Jason Carr, and sound by John A Leonard.

"The production, designed with drop-dead cool by Stephen Brimson Lewis and blessed with a splendidly lush and jazzy score by Jason Carr, is breathtakingly sexy. Rachel Weisz comes on like every dirty old man's dream as Gilda, a fag-hag who only seems to be happy when humping... As Otto, Rupert Graves offers a spot-on impression of Coward's own mannered vocal delivery, and succeeds in finding a few moments of genuine charm and warmth in the character... in contrast Marcus d'Amico plays Leo with a queenly arrogance that repels all sympathy... There is little doubt that Coward would have curled his elegant lip derisively at this production. But I suspect that this spectacular 'outing' of his supercilious and mean-spirited little comedy reveals aa aspect of his personality that he would much rather have kept hidden." The Daily Telegraph

"The controversial production, first applauded at the Donmar Warehouse last September, reaches the West End with two new male leads who lack their predecessors' power. Yet Mathias makes this period playwright provocatively modern, with fresh appeal to the non-conformist young and sexually radical... Rupert Graves, however, most effectively portrays Otto as a vulnerable, very youthful hippie with a sexual drive which is easily diverted from Gilda to the task of speeding down a gay free-way. Marcus D'Amico's Leo is, by contrast stolidly insensitive and very far from being suave. Rachel Weisz's Gilda registers very high on the sex-appeal meter, though she needs more lightness and inscrutability. The production still emeiges as the most challenging comedy of sexual manners in town." The London Evening Standard

"Noel Coward's celebrated thirties love triangle may hail from the cool Martini era, but in Sean Mathias's super-chic production the temperature never fells below sauna levels... The performers all have a tendency to be over-excitable, and the production is best described as moist: the repeated attempts to create an electrifying erotic charge occasionally make one long for a quiet night in alone... But it's a small price to pay for a reading of the play that strips away the glitz and froth to reveal a dark tangle of human desire where friendship, dignity, art, and ultimately even liberty are cold-bloodedly sacrificed on the altar of a sterile sexual obsession." The Guardian

Design for Living in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 14 February 1995, opened on 20 February 1995, and closed on 10 June 1995


4th West End London Revival 2010

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

A major revival of Noel Coward's Design for Living in London starring Tom Burke, Lisa Dillon and Andrew Scott

The cast featured Lisa Dillon as 'Gilda', Andrew Scott as 'Leo', Tom Burke as 'Otto', and Angus Wright as 'Ernest Friedman', with Maggie McCarthy as 'Miss Hodge', Nancy Crane as 'Grace Torrence', John Hollingworth as 'Mr Birbeck'/'Henry Carver', Maya Wasowicz as 'Helen Carver', Edward Dede as 'Matthew', and Matthew Gammie as 'the Photographer'.

Directed by Anthony Page, with designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by David Hersey, and sound by Paul Groothuis.

Tom Burke's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Malcolm' in John Caird's revival of William Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Almeida Theatre in 2005; and 'Romeo' in Tim Carroll's revival of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2004.

Lisa Dillon's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Sibyl Chase' in Richard Eyre's revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2010; 'Helen' in Anna Mackmin's production of David Eldridge's Under The Blue Sky at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2008; 'Joanna Lyppiatt' in Howard Davies' revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2007; 'Desdemona' in Gregory Doran's revival of William Shakespeare's Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in 2004; and 'Hilde Wangel' in Anthony Page's revival of Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder at the Albery Theatre in 2003.

Andrew Scott's London theatre credits include the role of 'Mark' in Ian Rickson production of Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol at the Old Vic Theatre and Royal Court Theatre in 2000.

"Noel Coward's barbed witticisms aren't as plentiful or sinfully delicious here as they are in, say, Private Lives but in Anthony Page's superbly acted revival, the play emerges as an astute, extremely amusing study of the pleasures and frustrations of three people involved in a menage a trois... It digs beneath the sophisticated veneer and supercilious glamour of Coward's talky play to show us three people groping towards an understanding that they can't be apart and deciding to live by their own rules. You can see why the self-absorbed trio are inexorably drawn to each other: the sexual chemistry between them crackles. What's more, they crack each other (and us) up." The London Metro

"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... Gilda is a pig of a part to make work and Lisa Dillon certainly gives it her best shot, though I am not sure it is quite enough. In the final scenes, one found oneself yearning for her to kick her two male lovers out of her apartment and make the best of her marriage to her dull and insipid husband Ernest. 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

"The magnetism between this quirkily attractive rather than drop-dead gorgeous trio comes more from them being three of a kind: smug superior beings who think their unconventionality makes them more interesting than the so-called 'straight' set of dreary conformists... The trouble is that Andrew Scott's petulant, almost twerpish Leo makes it sounds like affectation, not the truth. There's simply not enough sexual snap, emotional crackle or verbal pop between him, Tom Burke's dullish Otto and Lisa Dillon's too old, averagely alluring and never dangerous Gilda. The last act warms up, partly because the chrome-and-glass set as well as the costumes has a shiny sophistication strikingly lacking in the earlier ones and the actors finally find the right tart tone of knowing exhibitionism. If only they'd started like that three hours earlier." The Mail on Sunday

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.