Nude With Violin
By Noel Coward
21 - 26 May, 2018
The play is set in 1957 shortly after the death of Paul Sorodin, a brilliant artist. Indecently close to his death comes a trail of bereaved relatives, his business manager, and all the rest who combine grief with greed awaiting the reading of the will. Into the fray steps Sebastien, valet and companion extraordinary, with some jolting surprises for the “mourners”. The biggest surprise is that Paul Sorodin was not all he had seemed. Throwing a few revelations of their own into the mix are an eccentric Russian Princess, an ex show girl, an Eleventh Hour Immersionist ( a very avant garde religion) and a mute but effective gentleman named Fabrice. Before they finish reputations are arranged and re-arranged and Sebastian emerges very satisfactorily.
Paris 1954. Paul Sorodin, a world famous Modernist artist has died. His funeral has just taken place. His family and connoisseur-cum-agent Jacob Friedland return to his luxurious apartment expecting to divide the spoils. They are received by his immaculate valet Sebastien who, we quickly suspect, has something up his sleeve. Over the next two days, revelation follows revelation, about the late artist’s talents, morals and fortune.
Meanwhile we are asked to consider - What is Art?
Who decides? The art critics? The buyers? You and me?
I should begin by saying that this play is guaranteed to disappoint some of our audience. There is no nude and no violin. However, there will be wit, polished conversation, and excellent entertainment. All the elements we have come to associate with a play by the man known simply as “the master”, Mr Noel Coward.
He wrote this play principally as a vehicle for his long-time friend John Gielgud. It ran successfully in London and then Coward took over the principle role of Sebastien when it opened on Broadway in 1957. It is fair to say this isn’t one of Coward’s most frequently revived plays but it is no less enjoyable for that. I love his style. I directed Private Lives here at BLT some years ago and it was immense fun. On occasion critics have remarked that Coward’s plays are merely ‘brittle, delightfully daring' and ‘all cocktails and laughter'.
And what is wrong with that you may ask?