Our reader Stephanie went to see Noel Coward’s play, Volcano, now playing at the Vaudeville Theatre. Check out what she thought about the steamy play, set on Jamaican-style island Samolo, at the side of a volcano.
photo by Catherine Ferris
‘overt discussion of sex and infidelity’
Noel Coward’s Volcano, never performed in his lifetime, is a product of his period spent living in Jamaica where he sought refuge from the clamour of fame – and probably tax. The often tense dialogue of the play is contrasted with the steamy, languid atmosphere of the Jamaican tropics. Written during the post-WW2 period of radical change and liberalism, Volcano reveals Cowards ability to change with the times. The play’s often overt discussion of sex and infidelity was not what his audience expected, and Volcano was shelved.
‘too old to indulge in vintage coquetry’
Adela’s ‘Jamaican’ home is on the side of a volcano which rumbles symbolically at intervals throughout. Adela (Jenny Seagrove), a widow, runs a plantation farm and keeps the company of a small group of other British expats. She is a dignified, composed woman, but finds herself in love with the smooth talking but likeable lothario Guy (Jason Durr). His amorous intentions are clear but Adela, despite loving him, cannot give into his advances. It is a seeming betrayal to her late husband; besides, she is ‘too old to indulge in vintage coquetry’.
The situation is stirred by the imminent arrival of the other guests. Each one lends a different friscance to the play. Guy’s wife, Melissa, is sharp, piercing, but allows the audience some sympathy as she copes with her philandering husband. The light-hearted, loving couple, Grizelda and Robin, provide a much needed dynamic energy to the play, foils to the central troublesome love triangle. Meanwhile, Ellen is an alluring distraction to Guy’s amorous intentions towards Adela, much to Adela’s… chagrin or relief? At the centre of the conflicting loyalties is Guy, who shows little regret for pursuing what he wants. However, he is less the cause than the catalyst for the turmoil in each character’s life. He forces them to confront their problems.
‘compelling example of Coward’s talent and British wit’
Volcano is a compelling example of Coward’s talent and British wit brought to life by a well-chosen ensemble. It is an affecting piece of work more suitable for a mature audience. If you enjoy the double-entendre and mannered, witty style of Coward then this exclusive play is something fresh that shouldn’t disappoint. Whilst little is apparently resolved by the play’s conclusion, Roy Marsden’s direction, the strong cast, and attention to detail, takes us into the complicated nature of relationships and desire - an insightful glimpse into character dynamics. You will feel it was an evening well spent.
Volcano is now running at the Vaudeville Theatre until mid-September. Tickets start at £26.