Seagrove at Severn

Volcano…Noel Coward
Theatre Severn
Monday 2nd July to Saturday 7th July 2012

It was a star filled performance of Noel Coward’s “Volcano” that grandly filled the stage at Theatre Severn on Monday night. Headed by Jenny Seagrove, whom we know from such work as television’s, Lewis, Peak Practice and Casualty. This little known Coward piece was a dark, reflective, moody and an utterly fascinating tale of humanity trying cope with challenge.
Set on the side of a Volcano, hence the title, recently widowed ex-pat Adele Shelley (Seagrove) continues her late husband’s work on their Banana plantation. The narrative evolves around and emits from her friends who all come calling for a weekend in late summer, 1959. There are love triangles, heart searchings and final resolutions. With the ever constant rumbling volcano as a metaphor for the central character’s own emotions, the play creates and explores all the potential complications that could arise amongst such a bunch of friends. Coward, wishing to explore his own existence in the colonies, portrayed it as a luxurious, decadent and corrupted life.

The script gave a fascinating sound bite of how these lotus eaters lived and how far removed they were from the decidedly grey, dull and rainy London streets. This was a colonial lifestyle that was, itself, at that time, decaying.

With a beautifully designed set and superb characterisation from the cast of beautiful people, the play romped along at a breathtaking pace creating situations along the way that could potentially end up so badly for all concerned. The use of lighting and sound was so creative; consequently ensuring the audience felt the atmosphere and ambience of a colonial house on the side of an active volcano, in a seamy, humid and exhausting climate.

Another interesting facet of this play was the exploration of gender and expected behaviour. Coward had written his women as tough, independent spirits with intelligence and charm in equal measure. Clearly visible in the performance of the awesomely beautiful actress Perdita Avery; Ms. Avery exuded a coquettish  feminity that hid the fact that she was a determined minx out to fool the others to achieve her own seedy ends. The men were ruggedly handsome, brave and practical. Again all lending leverage to the argument that this class was a inspirational and perfect way of life. A life that brought out everyone’s potential in the indolence of a colonial lifestyle.

It was also an amazing journey into a class structure that, thankfully, we don’t see too often in these modern times. To illustrate this point an examination of the language used would prove indicative of this leisure class. “You have been dithering too long with that tired Gin and Tonic allow me to get you a Martini” Just the sort of thing the average housewife of 2012 hears daily as she tries to make toast, do the washing, feed the baby, see the children off to school and then get herself ready for work, I don’t think.

The director, Roy Marsden, known as television’s Inspector Adam Dalgleish, had worked hard on this piece and one could see his hand in some of the moves and obviously in the deliverance of text. His interpretation of the play was, one could only imagine, exactly what Coward would have hoped for as he bashed out the script on his trusty type writer. It was a stunning performance and scores a five star rating on the scale. Go and see it. Volcano, Theatre Severn 2nd to Saturday 7th July.

Owen Lewis
 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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