Théâtre (1933)

Livret: Noël Coward
Production à la création:

Act I - Otto's "rather shabby" studio in Paris, 1932
Gilda is an interior designer who lives with the painter Otto, who was previously attached to Leo, an author. She is visited by Ernest Friedman, an art dealer and friend of all three. He is excited about his newly acquired Matisse and wants to show it to Otto. Gilda says that Otto is in bed, ill, and cannot be disturbed. Ernest tells her that Leo is back in Paris after making a success in New York. Otto enters from the street, carrying luggage, and very clearly not bedridden as Gilda has told Ernest. Ernest prudently takes his leave. After he and Otto have gone out to find Leo, supposedly at the George V Hotel, Leo enters from Gilda's bedroom where he has spent the night with her. They discuss what they should say to Otto, whom they both love. On his return they tell him that they have slept together in his absence, and after a furious row he renounces both of them and storms out of the room.

Act II - Leo's flat in London eighteen months later
Scene 1
Leo and Gilda are now living together. His plays are now immensely successful. A journalist and press photographer call to do a feature on him. During the interview Leo makes several remarks that show how shallow he finds success.
Scene 2
A few days later, Leo is away, and Otto turns up. He too has now become successful. Otto and Gilda dine together and their old love is rekindled. They embrace passionately.
Scene 3
The next morning, Otto is still asleep when Ernest calls on Gilda. She tells him she is leaving Leo, and they exit together. Leo returns to discover Otto, who at once acknowledges that he has spent the night with Gilda. Before the ensuing row develops too far they spot the notes Gilda has left for them both. They are both horrified that she has gone, and they drown their sorrows in brandy and then sherry. They embrace, sobbing helplessly.

Act III - Ernest's penthouse in New York, two years later.
Scene 1
Gilda has married Ernest and become a commercially successful designer. Ernest is away, and Gilda is giving a reception for some important clients. It is gatecrashed by Otto and Leo, in impeccable evening dress, determined to reclaim her. They frighten her guests into leaving, and Gilda pretends to bid them goodnight along with her other guests, but secretly gives them a key and tells them to return later.
Scene 2
Ernest returns the next morning to find Otto and Leo in his apartment, wearing his pyjamas. Gilda, however, has not been there. She has been to a hotel overnight to allow herself time to think. When she returns Otto and Leo explain to an incredulous and incandescent Ernest that Gilda's formal status as his wife is irrelevant. She slowly realises that the attraction the two exert for her is irresistible. As Ernest rushes out denouncing their "disgusting three-sided erotic hotch-potch," Gilda, Otto and Leo fall together on a sofa in gales of laughter.[17]

Design for Living was a success on Broadway in 1933, but it has been revived less often than Coward's other major comedies. Coward said, "it was liked and disliked, and hated and admired, but never, I think, sufficiently loved by any but its three leading actors." The play was adapted into a film in 1933, directed by Ernst Lubitsch, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht, and starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins. It first played in London in 1939 and has enjoyed a number of stage revivals.

Coward had known Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne since his first trip to New York in 1921, when he was penniless, and they were scarcely better off. Dreaming of future stardom, they resolved that when all three were famous, Coward would write a play for them all to star in. In the following decade, Coward became one of the world's most famous playwrights, with a succession of popular hits. These ranged from the operetta Bitter Sweet (1929) and the extravaganza Cavalcade (1931), to the intimate comedies Hay Fever (1924) and Private Lives (1930). Lunt and Fontanne too had achieved fame, and by the early 1930s the time was right for Coward to write their star vehicle.

The Lunts' marriage was devoted and long-lived, but there were triangular relationships in their private lives which Coward could draw on for his plot. Coward recorded that while he was refining his original ideas for the play, "Alfred had suggested a few stage directions which if followed faithfully, would undoubtedly have landed all three of us in gaol". Of the three principal characters, Coward later commented: "These glib, over-articulate and amoral creatures force their lives into fantastic shapes and problems because they cannot help themselves. Impelled chiefly by the impact of their personalities each upon the other, they are like moths in a pool of light, unable to tolerate the lonely outer darkness but equally unable to share the light without colliding constantly and bruising each other's wings.... The ending of the play is equivocal. The three of them... are left together as the curtain falls, laughing.... Some saw it as the lascivious anticipation of a sort of a carnal frolic. Others with less ribald imaginations regarded it as a meaningless and slightly inept excuse to bring the curtain down. I as author, however, prefer to think that Gilda and Otto and Leo were laughing at themselves."

Original production
Design for Living previewed in Cleveland, Ohio on 2 January 1933 and opened in New York on 24 January, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway to popular and critical acclaim. In The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson described it as a play of "skill, art and clairvoyance, performed by an incomparable trio of comedians. ... Miss Fontanne with her slow, languorous deliberation, Mr Lunt with his boyish enthusiasm, Mr Coward with his biting, nervous clarity. ... Skill, art, even erudition of a sort have gone into this gay bit of drollery." The New York Sun called it "as happy a spectacle of surface skating as one might see," adding that the skaters were "sometimes on very thin ice." For the opening night, the price of tickets more than quintupled, and the three stars were reported to be receiving record salaries for a Broadway production.

The first London production of Design for Living opened at the Haymarket Theatre on 25 January 1939, later transferring to the Savoy Theatre, and running for 233 performances. The run was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. Gilda was played by Diana Wynyard, Otto by Anton Walbrook and Leo by Rex Harrison. By the time the play made its delayed debut in London Ivor Brown thought it "very much of its time and already seems a trifle faded. It will not be long before they revive it in costume as a specimen comedy of 'early thirties' manners."

In 1944 it was performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Birmingham from 13 November.

As part of Play of the Week in August 1964 four Coward plays directed and produced by Joan Kemp-Welch were transmitted on ITV, including Design for Living with Jill Bennett as Gilda, Daniel Massey as Leo, and John Wood as Otto.

The first major revival was at the Phoenix Theatre, London, shortly after Coward's death in 1973. Vanessa Redgrave played Gilda, with John Stride and Jeremy Brett as Otto and Leo. In 1982, at the Globe Theatre, Maria Aitken, Gary Bond and Ian Ogilvy played the lead roles.

The first Broadway revival was in 1984 at Circle in the Square Theater, directed by George C. Scott, starring Jill Clayburgh as Gilda, Raul Julia as Leo and Frank Langella as Otto.

A 1994 revival of the play directed by Sean Mathias at the Donmar Warehouse theatre emphasised the sexual overtones of the play. Though the Coward estate has been wary of radical reinterpretations of the plays, the author's partner, Graham Payn, attended at least one performance. The production featured Rachel Weisz, Paul Rhys and Clive Owen. It transferred to the West End with Weisz, Rupert Graves and Marcus D'Amico. Rupert Everett stood in for Graves in at least one performance during the run.

A 2001 Broadway revival was directed by Joe Mantello and starred Alan Cumming as Otto, Jennifer Ehle as Gilda and Dominic West as Leo.

In July 2002 Marianne Elliott directed a production for the Royal Exchange, Manchester with Victoria Scarborough as Gilda, Ken Bones as Ernest and Oliver Milburn as Otto.

London's Old Vic Theatre staged a revival in 2010, with Tom Burke as Otto, Lisa Dillon as Gilda, and Andrew Scott as Leo.

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant Design for Living

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant Design for Living

Version 1

Design for Living (1933-01-Ethel Barrymore Theatre-Londres)

Type de série: Original
Théâtre: Ethel Barrymore Theatre (Broadway - Etats-Unis)
Durée : 3 mois
Nombre : 135 représentations
Première Preview : Inconnu
Première: 24 January 1933
Dernière: 01 May 1933
Mise en scène : Noël Coward
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Star(s) :

Version 2

Design for Living (1939-01-Haymarket Theatre-Londres)

Type de série: Original London
Théâtre: Haymarket Theatre (Leicester - Angleterre)
Durée : 4 mois 2 semaines
Nombre :
Première Preview : Inconnu
Première: 25 January 1939
Dernière: 10 June 1939
Mise en scène :
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Alan Webb, Anton Walbrook, Eric Hales, Rex Harrison, Cyril Wheeler, Ross Landon, James McIntyre, Charles Peters, Diana Wynyard, Dorothy Hamilton, Ella Milne, Everley Gregg, Dorothy Lane, Cathleen Cordell, Kay Lewis.
Commentaires : The play had been revised slightly since the first production.

Transféré au Savoy Theatre du 13/6/1939 au 22/7/1939.
Presse : New Statesman said the play should have been either “a serious comedy, or a farce,” but, as it was, fell “between two stools.”

Spectator thought it a pity the play had not been staged earlier because it now seemed “a little old-fashioned.”

Version 3

Design for Living (2010-09-Old Vic-London)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Old Vic (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée : 2 mois 1 semaine
Nombre :
Première Preview : 03 September 2010
Première: 15 September 2010
Dernière: 27 November 2010
Mise en scène : Anthony Page
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Tom Burke (Otto), Lisa Dillon (Gilda), Andrew Scott, Nancy Crane, Matthew Gammie, John Hollingworth, Maggie McCarthy, Maya Wasowicz, Angus Wright
Presse : "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. 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.." Michael Billington for The Guardian

"A long and largely unrewarding slog." Charles Spencer for The Daily Telegraph

"The first act is chewy and the second is interminable. The end is definitely worth seeing." Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail

"Slick and stylish production ." Julie Carpenter for The Daily Express

"Although the production could do with some neat cuts, it is full of intriguing subtleties and symmetries, cleverly accentuated. And the stellar acting makes Coward’s comic lines seem piercingly precise." Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard

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