Matthew Warchus is to gender swap several roles in his forthcoming production of Present Laughter, which will introduce a bisexual central character into Noel Coward’s play.
Andrew Scott will star in the Old Vic’s staging of Coward’s comedy, for which Warchus consulted with Coward’s estate in order to make the changes. These include flipping the gender of two onstage characters and three others who are mentioned but not seen.
In Coward’s original, written in 1939, the central character of Garry Essendine has affairs with several women, however in Warchus’ updated version, his relationships are with both men and women.
The director told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “With Coward, he’s very outspoken on the subject of sex, but inevitably he’s focused more on heterosexual relationships because of the laws at the time and censorship, so that seemed to be an opportunity for us to confront his feelings about desire and sex.”
“That’s the thing with old plays, you owe it to them to explore what was radical about them in the first place.”
Scott added he had felt it important that the character of Garry was not simply rewritten as a gay man.
“It’s not particularly exciting to either of us to make it a gay play, because that’s not what it is, any more than it is a straight play,” he said.
Scott will star alongside Indira Varma, and the cast also includes Kitty Archer, Enzo Cilenti, Joshua Hill, Abdul Salis, Liza Sadovy, Luke Thallon, Sophie Thompson and Suzie Toase.
Other than Scott, individual character casting has not been announced.
Present Laughter runs at the Old Vic from June 17 to August 10.