Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Design for Living

Event: Design for Living
Location: The Old Vic

I was going to write about the Sustainable City event I attended last week with the writer of simplygreenbuildings (at Royal Society), then I was going to write about a great book I read (Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise) but now I'm only thinking about the play I saw yesterday. Noel Coward's Design for Living is playing at the Old Vic, and it is definitely a Coward play true to form. Filled with ruthless black humour, the play is still a bit unsettling even after 77 years later.

The plot is basically about three amoral friends/lovers, Otto, Gilda and Leo, who couldn't keep away from each other. Set in bohemian Paris, suburban London and then ritzy New York, the story charts their angers, passions and obsessions. They mock everything, from the syndrome of the modern girl to bland old men, from the problems of success and fame and worldliness to the glamour of art. Many reviewers did say that the 3-hour run should be trimmed down, but I didn't find any part too dragging. Leo is especially funny, as he uses his quick wit to make really long speeches with a deadpan, and Gilda is vicious and cruel when she expresses her hatred of wealth, marriage and other conventional markers of success.

Biting dialogues include:

'I am very fond of you.'

'A tedious habit, I suppos

Leo mocks the young, childless American couple in Gilda's house: 'It's a pity, modern people, if you lived in the Renaissance you'd have been married at age fourteen and had masses of children who would have fashioned great works of art'. Cue awkward silence from the couple.
You can catch the play until mid-November.