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Volcano – Theatre Royal, Brighton

Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Roy Marsden

Reviewer: Jenni Dixon

[Rating: 3]

 

Despite being written back in 1956, Volcano was never performed in Coward’s lifetime, until now. Adela Shelly (Jenny Seagrove) runs a banana plantation on the side of a volcano mountain on a Caribbean island. Her husband died some years ago and she is left to quietly tend her crops. In her solitude she finds the charms of another Ex-pat, Guy (Jason Durr) too difficult to resist and falls in love with this married man. Despite the relationship staying purely platonic, she feels guilt when Guy’s wife Melissa (Dawn Steele) arrives on the island to reclaim her man; however this is short lived as she watches Guy play for another friend of hers and the drama unfolds.

Jenny Seagrove is somewhat flat through this performance. It is very difficult to see any “spark” between her and Guy to confirm the sort of passion she confesses to. Her quiet and husky voice left some dialogue drowned in the set and although her character Adela seems to have a deep story and emotion to portray, none of this comes across in Seagrove’s performance. Durr has enough charm for the both of them, but unfortunately does nothing to help the connection of the characters.

Dawn Steele as Melissa helped the performance from slipping into being purely mediocre. Her hard-nosed, “bitchy” exterior cracks just enough for us to see how truly vulnerable she is, thanks to Steele. She pulls off all her one-liners to the audiences’ amusement. Perdita Avery as Adela’s friend Ellen was equally well played and although often slightly too loud (compared to their colleagues) Flinty Williams and Robin Sebastian (Grizelda and Robin Craigie) gave funny and strong performances, especially when they could not bear to be parted as the Volcano began to erupt. They added to the ex-pat feeling of camaraderie.

The set at first looks very impressive. It is static throughout the play; the audience watches everything unfold on the veranda/garden of Adela’s mountain side house. The only thing that lets it down is the rather amateur, almost school play’esq sound and lighting effects during the “eruption”. The rumbling of the imminent eruption was too loud and overpowered the dialogue and anyone who’s been watching Volcano Live on the BBC lately will tell you “that’s just not how it happens”. It is easy to see why adding a chaotic and potentially life threatening event to the play might bring out more emotion of the characters, having to deal with extremes but the actual outcome was slightly laughable because of the cheap effects.

Beautiful costumes and well played supporting rôles drag this show to an acceptable level, but on the whole a rather disappointing dialogue filled flat performance.

 

Runs until 28th July 2012

 

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