Monday, 31 March 2008

The Vortex and some other 1177 minutes of Noel Coward

As a birthday present, I treated myself to Peter Hall's production of Noël Coward's "The Vortex". First performed in 1924 it shocked at the time with references to toy boys and drugs. I read the play many moons ago and wasn't much impressed, but I never refuse an opportunity to see Coward, especially in the hands of a good director. And much to my surprised I found layers that I did not expect. The hint from the text that Nicky is mixed with drugs because he can't face his homosexuality was painfully evident in Dan Stevens' face. He gave a performance of someone who feels he's starting to waste his life but can't do anything to prevent it. But I think that the biggest revelation was the suggestion that Phoebe Nicholls character's friendship and loyalty to Florence may be hidding something else.

Dan Stevens was a pleasant surprise (saw him in "Hayfever" last year and wasn't very convinced). The same goes for Felicity Kendall (I spent most of "Amy's View" thinking what Judi Dench's performance might have been and her "Fallen Angels" did not impress a few years ago). Peter Hall lead the play and its cast very well, avoiding that any of them fall into the usually trappings of playing Coward. No winks to the audience, no excessive mannerisms. Just a play which can still shock.

Still on the subject of Coward, a recent voucher was translated into the 1177 minutes long (over 19h!), 7 DVD collection of his plays and short stories as done by the BBC. I still have many many hours to go but could not resist "Private Lives" with Penelope Keith. Every inch what I imagined and more, it was an hour and half of near-perfection.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Richard Widmark (1914-2008)

I never really liked him as an actor, but there are always exceptions: "Pickup on South Street" is a masterpiece and he's phenomenal in it.