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Coward's Vortex

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Felicity Kendal as Florence in the Vortex

In November I mentioned that I had reread Noel Coward's plays, and found his light comedies excruciatingly painful – not light but dark - empty of hope or fortitude, justice or prudence, faith or temperance or love. Missing these powers, the so-called theological and cardinal virtues, they struck me as brittle, but perhaps I'm missing something. Perhaps a quality such as hope is felt more palpably on stage when it is absent, the way a person who has lost a leg will "feel" it.

In short, if a person liked bitter bleakness, they would want to see Coward's Vortex, especially since Felicity Kendal is starring.

I read Kendal's memoir White Cargo, which describes her life as a girl, touring Shakespeare in India with her vagabond theatrical family, followed by her escape to London and her ragged ascent up the theatrical ladder, hands torn but chin high. I never saw The Good Life or the series of Stoppard plays in which she appeared, but I felt I understood her struggles, and ever since I have felt warmly toward her.

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Here she is in 2007 with PC Bob Crawford and Jake, a Metropolitan explosives dog. In 2005 Crawford and Jake cleared the scene at the Tavistock Square bus bombing so paramedics could reach the injured.

The Vortex is set in the 1920s. I'd like to see the play set in 2005, in the vortex of this time, and Felicity looking like this - a woman many women could identify with.


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