The Vaudeville Theatre
Author: Noel Coward
Director: Roy Marsden
Cast includes: Jenny Seagrove, Dawn Steele, Jason Durr, Finty Williams, Perdita Avery, Robin Sebastian
Noel Coward, the waspish master playwright who dominated the pre and post-war West End with hits like Private Lives and Design for Living, wrote this one late in his career, whilst fleeing the vagaries of fashion, in his tropical paradise hideaway. You can imagine him surrounded by a coterie of bitchy, expat queens gossiping about who was having who, over cocktails on the terrace. In those days UK law made it impossible for him to write a stage full of openly gay characters but there's a real flavour of queeny bitching in the delicious catty exchanges between the jilted and jilting wives who all talk like women always do in post-war plays by gay authors, i.e. just like post-war gay authors.
What a shame he couldn't just write openly about his disillusionment with love. Instead the old boy has to wrap it up in a tiresome plot about gals falling for a swarthy Ian Fleming type on a volcanic island in the tropics and then he throws in a clunky reference to bi-sexuality for titillation at the end.
But it's all very agreeable, Jenny Seagrove looks stunning as a martyr-like widow, Dawn Steele delivers the barbed put downs with a lot of fizz and Jason Durr successfully makes the transition from pretty boy to the new Peter Bowles pleasingly well, even when required to do a bit of unlikely bro-mantic wresting.
The set looks beautiful when lit atmospherically, at other times it looks very low budget. The long awaited volcanic eruption is represented by some fizzing light bulbs and tipping over the garden furniture, but by then you'll have probably ceased to care.
If you can hunt down a cheap ticket it's a diverting enough couple of hours, but otherwise don't waste one of the few summer evenings we have left.
VERDICT: ***(Three Stars) The bitchy one liners are fun, the cast are on form but this isn’t vintage Coward.