Noël Coward’s “Design for Living” on stage at the I.G.-Farben-Haus

Photo: Chaincourt Theatre Company

The inability to make do either with or without each other is a familiar relationship dynamic that gains special momentum in “Design for Living”. Coward’s comedy centers on three lovers: interior designer Gilda, painter Jo and playwright Leo constantly revolve around each other, attracting and repelling one another, driven by circumstances as well as their own desires. Despite all the romantic entanglements, there are also quite serious overtones in “Design for Living”. The play poses questions related to life’s goals and design, the sacrifices the characters are willing to make – for career or love –, and who or what falls by the wayside. As such, Gilda’s complaint that having to care for her partners means she is unable to realize herself, hints at a tragedy that remains surprisingly topical almost 100 years after the play’s first performance in 1932. Even the happy end leaves shards behind.

Chaincourt Theatre Company: Noël Coward’s “Design for Living”
June 30 and July 1/6/7/8, 2023.

Admission: 6:30 p.m., Performance start: 7:30 p.m.
Goethe University Frankfurt, Westend Campus,
Annex of the IG-Farben-Haus, room NG 1.741
Cost: €10 or €5 (reduced)

Too scandalous for England, a hit on Broadway

Noël Coward is one of the most successful modern English playwrights and currently experiencing a renaissance on British stages due to the 50th anniversary of his death. He wrote the main roles in Design for Living for himself and a friendly married couple. The (homo)erotic undertones were so scandalous at the time that the play could not initially be performed in Coward’s native Britain. The Broadway premiere, however, was so successful that, at times, the enthusiastic fans could only be kept in check with police reinforcements.

70 years of successful student theater

The Chaincourt Theatre Company, directed by James Fisk, a lecturer in American studies, is now bringing its very own version of the play onstage, and in the process has re-designated two male roles to female. Aside from for director Fisk, everyone involved on and off stage is a student at Goethe University. The leading actresses last performed in the winter productions of the theater group of the Institute of English and American Studies, founded in the 1950s, and are thus already at home on the stage in the I.G. Farben annex building. The play will be performed in English.

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