Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Design For Living - Revisited! Victoria & Albert Museum 16th December 2015

I laughed when I read this play, the dialogue was very witty and it was an easy and enjoyable read, so given the opportunity to see a recording of the play in which Tom starred I was in seventh heaven. I was really looking forward to seeing this play, and I am pleased to say I did not leave disappointed. In fact I left in considerable pain as my sides and cheeks hurt from all the laughing I did!

The first thing to notice about the stage play is that the sets are beautiful, especially when they are in a stunning New York penthouse in the final act. The three lead cast members were terrific, but the connection between Tom and Andrew Scott was sublime. How they managed to keep, almost, straight faces throughout the performances is beyond me. They were hysterical! But we should not forget Ernest, Angus Wright should be commended for his portrayal of the forgotten man, as without it, the connection between the three leads would be lost.

The play starts with Ernest and Gilda talking in a Paris art studio, she lives in her own world, she is a restless individual who is obviously unhappy, but we're not sure why. I don't think she really knows why, but as we move through the play she becomes more of an independent woman, until the climax where she realises what it is that she needs to complete her life. The conversation between the two characters becomes more heated and animated, it is obvious that Ernest has feelings for her, but Gilda ignores this and just talks about life from her own confused point of view. At one point Ernest snaps at her about her untidy lifestyle and as the hysteria grows, in walks Gilda's partner, Otto (Tom). It is a brief moment with Otto before he leaves with Ernest to find their friend Leo who is apparently back in town. After they depart, in walks Leo. Leo and Gilda share animated conversations, and I liked the fact that Leo has some lines similar to those of Ernest, "strong as a horse". These idioms are reflected throughout the play, and they keep the sense of connection between all of the characters alight. Leo sums up the entire play with these lines "I love you. You love me. You love Otto. I love Otto. Otto loves you. Otto loves me."

After some glorious scenes between all four characters, we move on a few years and Gilda is now living with Leo, having previously told Otto that she has slept with Leo! She has moved from an artists flat to a beautiful looking London town house, success has come to Leo and Gilda, but Gilda is still not happy, she is still missing something. Lisa Dillon's portrayal of Gilda sometimes reminded me of Felicity Kendal in The Good Life, whilst she sometimes appeared to be in the shadow of the men in her life, she had a determined nature and a sharp tongue to keep her going in her determination to succeed in her own right.

My favourite scenes in the play are without any doubt the scenes between Otto and Leo. They are so happy when they realise that they are back together after years apart, but mournful that Gilda is now no longer in either of their lives. As they get steadily drunker and drunker, Tom and Andrew's speeches get funnier and funnier! Their facial expressions are priceless; Tom especially can say a thousand things just with his eyes, he doesn't need to say a word! It is a very physical performance by both actors, how I cried when Leo says "How astonished our insides must be - all that brandy hurtling down suddenly!" He does such a funny jiggle as he acts out brandy hitting the insides and the warm hit that takes over the body! They begin to talk like one does as alcohol takes over the brain and whatever rubbish is in your head suddenly becomes an important matter of discussion. In this case the scientific age they were living in! They also did that thing whereby you know you shouldn't drink anymore, but one look at each other and you can cajole each other to just one more drink, and more nonsensical conversation! At one point Leo says of the sherry they are drinking "It ought to be good; it's real old Armadildo." I laughed because I thought he'd got his lines wrong, and looking at Tom's face he was desperately trying to keep a straight face. As it turned out, it is the actual line from the play, but it was still hilarious, and just as I tried to recover my wits Leo pushes Otto across the sofa and the look of surprise on Tom's face once again had me roaring with laughter and holding my sides! It was a truly remarkable bit of acting by both parties.

I don't think anything could surpass that part of the play, although Edgar's outburst at the end is somewhat triumphant as he has obviously had more than enough of his three friends! The play was about three hours long, but it did not feel that long to me. I enjoyed every minute of it and I really did not want it to end. The actors should be thrilled with their performances, sometimes manic, sometimes soulful, they showed the difficulty of being in love with more than one person. The worst thing I can say about the play is that it is not available to buy; I could watch it again and again, it is the perfect antidote to watch if you have had a bad day!







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