The Vortex is a play written by Noel Coward that was first performed in 1924. It tells the tale of Florence, an ageing socialite who continues to chase after younger lovers, while ignoring her long-suffering husband. Nicky is her 24 year old son, who returns from a stay in Paris with a surprise in the form of a fiancée. However, all is not as it seems, as he has developed a problem with drugs during his time away from home, and is struggling to hold his life together.
The stage takes the form of an art deco era circular room, with large mirrors and wooden slats forming the walls. This is an adaptable stage and changes/ grows into other rooms, for the variety of other settings required. The costumes of Peter O’Brien are as ever, hugely impressive, and he captures the world of the roaring 20’s with great aplomb.
The first scenes in the play take the form of social gatherings, while a procession of people meet, greet and swap witty repartee, which you would associate with Coward. All the while, the various plots bubble away under the surface, and are contained within knowing glances and pointed comments. While the look and style of these opening scenes is impressive, due to some uneven acting, it doesn’t hold together as well as expected and the play never truly lifts off.
After the interval, the large cast is shrugged off, and the play focuses on Mother and Son and their issues. With this smaller cast and more succinct approach, it works better and leads to an impressive, if a little sudden finale. It is difficult to be shocked by the drug abuse or sexual antics of its protagonists, as the crowd would have been nearly a hundred years ago, but the writing is still impressive. This is a solid production, that is noteworthy for its sense of style and its attempts to capture a fascinating era of our past.
The Vortex runs at the Gate Theatre until March 22nd.
Directed by Annabelle Comyn
Set Design by Paul O’Mahony
Costume Design by Peter O’Brien
Lighting Design by Chahine Yavroyan
Composer & Sound Design by Philip Stewart
Choreography by Philip Connaughton
Helen Saville played by Fiona Bell
Nicky Lancaster played by Rory Fleck Byrne
David Lancaster played by Simon Coury
Bruce Fairlight played by Peter Gaynor
Pauncefort Quentin played by Mark O’Regan
Florence Lancaster played by Susannah Harker
Preston played by Andrea Kelly
Bunty Mainwaring played by Katie Kirby
Clara Hibbert played by Rebecca O’Mara
Tom Veryan played by Ian Toner