Design for Living was originally written by Noël Coward for himself and his two good friends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane to star in, which they achieved on Broadway in 1933. The show was received with record-breaking successes.
The play focuses on the ‘erotic hotch-potch’ that exists between the three main characters: Leo, Otto and Gilda. Coward is on fine form with almost every line full of witticisms and the whole show is charged with a timeless charm. From its first performance it has lost none of the brilliance that it is renowned for and it is certainly some of the best writing I have ever encountered.
The cast of this new revival builds on a marvellous foundation from eminent director Anthony Page, whose relaxed style is perfect for the material. The production itself lacks nothing at all. The costumes are stunning and all add something to the show, the sets are detailed and fashionable and allow the audience to easily tap into the ‘perfect silliness’ of the three main characters and their supporting cast.
The acting is also of the highest order with each character, right down to Matthew the butler in the final scenes, being perfectly characterised and all delivering standout performances. There were few faults and all of which are easily subscribed to first week creases that are yet to be ironed out by the weeks of rigorous performances that will delight every audience member that attends.
Admitting that there were slight flaws in no way detracts from the brilliance of a show that seems to come together so perfectly that my only complaint could be that it was so funny that at times the audience wouldn’t stop laughing.
All in all, I would say that this production is a near as makes no difference perfect synergy of casting (including Andrew Scott (Leo) whom people who saw Sherlock on the BBC will recognise as the infamous Moriarty), set, direction and scripting. It’s as if the actors were made for the roles and the roles for the actors.
Unmissable. Simply unmissable.
Written by Noel Coward; directed by Anthony Page; at the Old Vic Theatre; starring Lisa Dillon, Angus Wright, Tom Burke and Andrew Scott.
John Ord (08/09/2010)