Coward and Mac Liammóir shared a secret, seldom-spoken language

London Letter: A new Noël Coward exhibition reminds us of carefully constructed, parallel lives

Noël Coward: Overcame the barriers of class and sexuality by constructing a persona that was glamorous, humorous, carefree and louche. Photograph: David Cairns/Daily Express/Hutton Archive/Getty Images

Noël Coward: Overcame the barriers of class and sexuality by constructing a persona that was glamorous, humorous, carefree and louche. Photograph: David Cairns/Daily Express/Hutton Archive/Getty Images

A headless mannequin is wearing a black and white check silk dressing gown, one hand in its pocket and wedged into the fingers of the other is a black cigarette holder. It is the signature image of Noël Coward, whose voice wafts across the room singing Someday I’ll Find You with his great collaborator Gertrude Lawrence.

Noël Coward: Art & Style, a new exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery until December 23rd, focuses on Coward’s visual style and on the costumes and décor created for his plays and films by some of his generation’s most celebrated artists and designers. But it also explores the way Coward created a public image that at once concealed who he was and enabled him to be himself.

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