Look After Lulu

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Look After Lulu, a play by Noel Coward based on Occupe-toi d’Amélie by Georges Feydeau. It is set in Paris in 1908. The farcical story concerns an attractive prostitute who is entrusted to a friend by her lover, when he goes into the army. The friend tricks her into a mock wedding.

Coward decided to open the play in America first because Larence Olivier did not want to be in the show and Vivien Leigh was not available at the time. His first choice to play Lulu was not available, his next choice did not wish to play a prostitute. Cyril Ritchard, who directed the production, and Roddy McDowall, who co-starred in it, suggested Tammy Grimes, who had not done a Broadway “book” show; Coward saw her cabaret act and promptly offered her the role.

After a tryout in New Haven, Connecticut, the play premiered on Broadway at the Henry Miller’s Theatre on 3 March 1959 and closed on 4 April 1959 after 39 performances. The play featured Grimes, McDowall, Jack GilfordEllis RabbBarbara Loden and Kurt KasznarTIME Magazine wrote: “Coward’s dialogue for this turn-of-the-century French farce is broad more often than bright, and Cyril Ritchard’s direction is often as agitated as it is agile.”

The play opened in the West End on 29 July 1959, at the Royal Court Theatre, and transferred to the New Theatre now the Noël Coward Theatre, where it ran until December 1959. It was directed by Tony Richardson and starred Vivien Leigh, with Robert StephensAnthony Quayle and Max AdrianThe Daily Mail wrote: “I came away reflecting that Noel Coward is Noel Coward, French farce is French farce, and never the twain should meet.” Harold Hobson in The Sunday Times concurred: “If Look After Lulu! is only half a success, the reasons are more than complimentary to everyone concerned. The trouble is that Mr. Coward is too witty, and Miss Leigh too beautiful. For the kind of play that Look After Lulu! is, beauty and wit are about as necessary as a peach melba at the North Pole.”

This play was fairly controversial for both viewers and for performers. The topic of prostitution at this time was clearly a sensitive subject. This play has not had a major production since 1959.

Ashley Underwood

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