Review – Volcano, Vaudeville Theatre

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Nearly at the end of its run so really this is just to remind ourselves in future years that we were there because it is unlikely we shall remember otherwise.

The twin-piqued interests of Volcano at the Vaudeville were that (a) it is Noel Coward‘s rediscovered, previously un-produced 1956 play and (b) Andrew has a geophys fascination with volcanoes and so it just had to be squeezed in before it lies undiscovered for few more generations.

Roy Marsden directs the inaction which is set in the South Pacific, although there is sadly little happy talk.

Recently widowed plantation owner Adela (Jenny Seagrove) wears silver shoes, cleans her own house, collects shells and serves up a lot of cocktails but still finds time to be ever-so-slightly smitten by smoothie Guy Littleton (Jason Durr). But watch out Jenny when Guy’s sharp-tongued wife Melissa (Dawn Steele – pleasingly acidic) flies in and has not just Adela to contend with but Adela’s friend Ellen (Perdita Avery) who has also foolishly been swayed by Guy’s oily charms. Then Ellen’s husband (Tim Daish) rocks up…

The first scene is frightfully dull. Adela explains the plot’s set up to the audience Guy who clearly switches off from listening to her cut-glass monotone, “You know all of this as I told you before” she rasps. You can see why Mr Coward might not have tried terribly hard to get this staged in his lifetime if he was at all interested in continuing to be known as “The Master”.

Anyway, watch out for falling metaphors as tensions mount in the shadow of the island’s volcano which it threatening to erupt in Act 1 (“Impressive Sensurround-style sound effects,” thought Phil. “Sounded like thunder,” Andrew). Well, the Whingers felt compelled to return after the interval for that, but like the play it blows too soon in Act 2 leaving nowhere much to go and the final pairing picking through the detritus of the action until it just sort of grinds to a halt.

Lights spark (actually they “sputter” according to the Daily Express on the boards outside the theatre) and they drop. Chairs are knocked over and a few shells drop from their shelves (Why are the shells “dusty” by the way? They are outside, don’t they have tropical rainstorms on this island? Or is there just an ongoing sprinkling of volcanic ash?). Strangely the coffee cups remained stubbornly in place.

No one is hurt, because conveniently this a volcano without lung-burning gases. The worst injuries inflicted on the cast are sore bottoms from a trip up the mountains. If only they’d worn the mules instead of riding them.

But blow the volcano. Our highlight came at the end of Act 1 when the curtain didn’t drop properly leaving the couple on stage extending their embrace as several attempts were made to bring it down then gave up and dashed off to the wings. For the record it did eventually come down fully. The audience, appreciating some real drama at last, remained seated to applaud its eventual full descent. Glorious stuff.

You wouldn’t know it was Coward, there’s little of his customary wit and we were surprised, nay shocked, by a conversation about the merits of toilet paper. Finty Williams and Robin Sebastian get most of the sparse laughs as banana plantation owning friends of Adela visiting from the other side of the island.

Without doubt the line that gave us our biggest chortle is a quote from Paul Taylor outside the theatre which goes to show that when it comes to spelling, you have to be carefully taut.

Volcano is collectible and not totally without its own daffy charm though – happily for us – often for all the wrong reasons.

But hardly a lava minute (geddit?).


4 Responses to “Review – Volcano, Vaudeville Theatre”

  1. magarita Says:

    I quite enjoyed it as a period piece, with part of the plot left slightly undeveloped as a sign of the 1956 times.

    There is comedy in the lurid lighting and never having been to Jamaica I have no informed opinion as to the accuracy of the violet coloured sky in the first & last scenes.

  2. Barbara Says:

    Jamaica? Thought you said it was the South Pacific

  3. margarita Says:

    Oh that’s different – there’s obviously some secluded island with violet skys. Or maybe the lighting designer saw South pacific and thought the cloured filters were real.

  4. margarita Says:

    Apologies for the o’er hasty message with spelling mistakes. After extensive research I’ve now established the accuracy of the lighting designer’s approach:

    Seven people shout on a lonely island,
    Lost in the middle of an unseen sea,
    Two Acts drinking on a green stage carpet,
    Till the chairs fall over, the lights ‘sputter’
    And the set needs dusting most industriously.
    Violet skies will haunt you,
    If not at night then every day,
    Violet skies torment you,
    Close your eyes and sleep both Acts away.

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