Review: Volcano, Theatre Royal Brighton, Monday July 23

Bill Kenwright production of'THE VOLCANO'by Noel Coward'directed by Roy Marsden
Bill Kenwright production of'THE VOLCANO'by Noel Coward'directed by Roy Marsden

THERE is something deeply satisfying about Noel Coward’s dialogue.

Waspish, venomous and intelligent, it zinged fourth from the actors like bullets delivered from a machine gun.

It held your attention and frequently caused many a sharp intake of breath as you winced from the verbal injury their words inflicted.

Performances from the cast were first rate: perfect delivery, compelling and believable.

This week Volcano began its run at the Theatre Royal before it goes to the West End, so you can see it here first.

This play was never performed during Coward’s life time because it was based, rather too closely, on the love affairs of his rich and famous friends who lived on Jamaica, where Coward also had a home.

In fact Adela’s character (played by Jenny Seagrove) is based on Coward’s friend Blanche Blackwell, scion of the Lindos family, which owned lucrative banana plantations on Jamaica and was said to be one of the 21 families which controlled the island.

Guy Littleton (Jason Durr) is based on Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and it is understood that Pussy Galore was based on Blanche.

Blanche said of Ian: “He treated women very badly but I was not the sort of woman to just take it. I think what he liked in me was my willingness to defy him.”

Adela is in love with Guy but knows him for what he is: a serial monogamist who she cannot rely on.

Guy’s wife Melissa (Dawn Littleton) then arrives on the island to ensure that their love affair remains brief.

Throw a rumbling Volcano into the mix, a drunken party soaked in tension and the rapier wit of the characters, and you have a play is gripping and gives you a lot to talk about afterwards.

Not all the characters are despicable, in fact only Guy is a complete cad and a bounder.

Others are conflicted, hurting and have made some bad choices in life, while one couple love and respect one another, perhaps showing the model Coward thought people should follow - he was in fact a very moral man.

There are some plot twists in Volcano which will leave you gasping in surprise, the setting is beautiful, the tension exquisite and it poses with some moral questions to discuss. In short don’t miss it.