Ways and Means (play)

Ways and Means (play)

Ways and Means is a light comedy and one of the mini-plays in Noël Coward's . The show was first copyrighted in 1935 and was produced by [Samuel French Inc.]


The show takes place in the bedroom of a French villa on the Cote d'Azur where heiress Stella Cartwright and her gambling husband Toby are staying. They are plagued by debt and embarrassment as everything seems to always go wrong for the couple. Their honor is saved just in time when a disgraced chauffeur tries to rob them and ends up pulling them out of a hole in return.


"Scene 1"

11:30 AM on an April morning

Stella and Toby are eating breakfast and discussing how they plan to recover the 50 pounds lost last night at the casino. Stella remembers that Lord Chapworth (Chaps for short) owes her a lot of money and to their delight, the butler leads him in. Stella tries to use sex appeal to collect the debt, but Chaps doesn't catch on and goes on to say that he lost all his money due to getting stuck at the same table with Pearl Brandt (no appearance). Stella tries to recuperate, but then the landowner, Olive Lloyde Ransome, and a very dopey Elena Krassiloff enter the room. Elena begins to tinker with random objects while Olive informs Toby and Stella that more guests are arriving the next afternoon and they have to leave. The butler returns to inform them that their train tickets had already been booked and they realize that the whole thing was set up to oust them. In desperation, Toby gathers up all the jewelry and sends Nanny to Cannes to pawn it so that he can try to win at the casino. The scene ends with Stella saying, "You'll lose it, I know you will. I wish I could play the damned game."

"Scene 2"

1:30 AM the next morning

Stella and Toby recount the events of the evening. Just as he was about to join a game of baccarat, Pearl Brandt steals his seat and wins 170,000 francs while Toby loses all of his money. After niggling over minor details Toby comes up with a plan to save themselves, that being to rob and murder Pearl Brandt. Toby becomes overwhelmed and Stella orders him to stop and get ready for bed. Another argument ensues and Toby storms into the bathroom and bangs his head on the cupboard. Stella leads him to the bed and the scene ends with her saying that she plans to abandon their humility and borrow enough money to get them home.

"Scene 3"

Two hours later

An armed robber enters the room and foolishly trips on a chair, waking Toby and Stella. He aims at them and demands their jewelry, but they tell him that they don't have anything. A scuffle ensues and Toby ends up with the gun. They unmask the robber and discover that he is Stevens, a well known chauffeur. Stevens reveals to them that he lost his job (after having sex with his boss's wife) and was desperate for money. Stella starts to feel sympathetic, but Toby orders him out and threatens to call the police. All of a sudden, Stella realizes that Stevens could be useful and pulls him back in. Her plan is to make Stevens rob the other guests, give them the money, and tie them up to make them look like victims. Toby doesn't catch on and is resistant until Stella mentions Pearl Brandt. Stevens runs off while Toby and Stella pull apart the bed sheets so that they can be used to bind them. Stevens returns with the money and jewelry and proceeds to bind and gag Stella and Toby. He leaves while they double over in laughter right before the curtain closes.

Cast List

1936 performance at Phoenix Theater:

Stella-Gertrude Lawrence

Toby-Noel Coward

Olive Lloyd-Ransom-Joyce Carey

Chaps-Anthony Pelissier

Nanny-Everly Greeg

Murdoch-Alan Webb

Stevens-Edward Underdown

Elena-Moya Nugeni

Gaston-Kenneth Carten

In the later 1936 performance at the National Theater in New York City, the part of Olive is played by Joan Swinstead.


All information courtesy of the script of Ways and MeansISBN 978-0-573-62577-0

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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