I saw Noel Coward’s Design for Living a few weeks ago at the Old Vic Theatre. I’d only heard vague murmurings about the story of three people who couldn’t choose between one or the other. I didn’t really know what to expect.
“I love you. You love me.
You love Otto. I love Otto.
Otto loves you. Otto loves me”
Leo says these magical words in the opening part of the play. I felt like someone had slapped me on the back of the head. No matter how bad things get today, being polyamorous and bisexual in the 1930’s must have been hellish. Or would it have been any different to now? The threesome were young, wealthy, white and mostly removed from the everyday world. When other characters in the play disapproved of them, the threesome could either ignore them or tell them to shut up and go away. Social scandal seemed to be the biggest worry they faced. I have very little in common with these characters. But with all the privilege that seeped into every aspect of their lives, I still adored the performance. I grinned like a loon whenever Leo and Otto kissed (hooray for bisexual men!). I loved the straight-speaking way they would declare their love for each other. I willed them to all just stop bickering, and pile into bed! I was so glad that I could see this play. No one used the words bisexual or polyamorous, because Design for Living existed decades before those words were in popular (or unpopular) usage. This was certainly an occasion that behaviour differed from labels, and not only because the threesome didn’t label themselves. "Our lives are shaped differently to yours.“ I loved it. Now if I could find a way to use the line: "Careful, Leo. Remember what happened in Mombassa,” into my daily speech, I’d be very happy indeed.
Polyday happens on 20th November in Bristol. Ball gowns and dinner suits are not compulsory, but would be much appreciated.
Photo from the Artsdesk
Birmingham / Brum BiFest takes place on Saturday 20th November 2010, from 10.30 – 6.00pm. Part of the SHOUT festival.
Bisexuals do not have twice the chance of a date on Saturday night. Believe me when I tell you that for many of us, we have twice the chance of being isolated and lonely when the weekend comes around. We have twice the chance of being written off and ignored by both queers and straights. When I tell someone that I’m bisexual I will generally not be believed. I have more than twice the chance of being told that it is just a phase. As a black bisexual woman I stand a strong chance of having unwanted sexual advances made on me; of others assuming I’m up for anything because I’m twice as exotic. As a bisexual woman with a disability, the odds are I won’t get what I need when I try to get some help. I’ll be unwelcome in support groups, invisible in resources that others can access. I’ll be the odd one out in the room full of assorted freaks. I’ll have to explain myself more than twice. I’ll have to dodge hate and threats and outright violence more than twice as much as you, Mister Allen. Personally, I can’t understand why people have to be so bigoted. I can’t understand why there’s so much hate.