Company of Ten give whirlwind performance in latest play

The Vortex

The Vortex - Credit: Archant

Vortex, by definition, is a mass which draws you in - and that is exactly what happens in the current production by the Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

The St Albans drama company is putting on The Vortex, a play written when Noel Coward was only 24 and which focuses on a glamorous era which had a much darker side.

In my experience, most Coward plays get off to a slow and rather stilted start and The Vortex is no exception. But as the title suggests, it gradually draws in the audience as the characters are fleshed out and their true colours begin to emerge.

And for a play which was written in 1920s, it is remarkably modern, dealing with subjects which contemporary audiences tend to think of as their own - promiscuity and drug addiction with a suggestion of homosexuality.

It is no wonder The Vortex was so contentious when it was first performed - and no wonder that Tim Hoyle, a self-confessed Coward fan, directs it with such relish.

Set in the Jazz Age as the fixtures, fittings and costumes demonstrate, it is a play with some strong female characters - notably Florence Lancaster and her friend Helen.

Kathryn Rogers makes a marvellous Florence - the mother of one once famed for her beauty who refuses to accept she is ageing and turns to lovers to keep the myth alive.

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The down-to-earth Helen, another fine performance from Jacqui Golding, is a perfect foil and the scene in the final act which finds them together in a heartbroken Florence’s bedroom in the early hours of the morning is the high spot of the play.

Oliver Sutton Izzard as Florence’s ‘toy boy’ Tom is becoming an increasingly welcome addition to the local stage while Lee Harris as Florence’s neglected son Nicky and his fiancee Bunty, played by Rosie Bauer, demonstrate there is plenty of young talent around.

The older members of the cast also hold their own - particularly John Querforth’s droll Pawnie and Katherine Barry’s shallow Clara.

The Vortex is a multi-layered play which rounds off the Company of Ten’s 80th season and shows, that there is nothing new in the whole world.

It can be seen from tonight until Saturday and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or click here.