Hitchcockian film star Farley Granger will make his West End debut in March, aged 75. He will star in Noel Coward’s rarely performed Semi Monde, which has its English premiere at the Lyric Theatre on 21 March 2001 (previews from 8 March), some 75 years after it was first written.

Semi Monde takes place in the cocktail bar of the Ritz Hotel in the years between the two World Wars. The well-heeled guest slip, with practised sophistication, from one relationship to another, seemingly oblivious to the world outside.

When Coward finished the play in 1926, it was considered too risqué to stage because of its sexual nature – with references to gay, lesbian and adulterous liaisons. It did not receive its world premiere until 1977, four years after Coward’s death, when a production was mounted at Glasgow’s Citizen Theatre.

The director of that production, Philip Prowse, returns to direct and design this one. Prowse also directed Coward’s The Vortex, starring Maria Aitken and Rupert Everett, in the West End in 1989. Lighting for Semi Monde is by Gerry Jenkinson who also worked with Prowse on The Vortex.

Granger has had a long career on television and in films. He is best known for his roles in Hitchcock classics Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951), in which he played a tennis star who, while on a rail journey, confesses to a stranger that he wishes his wife dead. In Semi-Monde, he plays a Russian émigré to London.

Granger is joined in the cast of 28 by Paul Albertson, Ben Bates, John Carlisle, Imogen Claire, Patti Clare, Beth Cordingly, Freya Dominic, Simon Dutton, Niall Faber, David Foxxe, Georgina Hale, Peter Hampson, Andrea Hart, Carsten Hayes, Brendan Hooper, Andrew Joseph, Nichola McAuliffe, Camilla Power, Ian Price, Lucy Russell, Stephen Scott, Ellen Sheean, Frances Tomelty, Sophie Ward, Derwent Watson, Dom Wilson and Tristram Wymark. Semi-Monde is produced by Thelma Holt and Karl Sydow.

The high-profile production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day Journey into Night, starring Jessica Lange, is currently booking at the Lyric until 3 March 2001.

- by Terri Paddock