A Talent to Amuse

Love. Sex. Betrayal.
 
All are on display in the British Theatre Playhouse’s production of The Vortex, a twisted love story from master playwright Noel Coward.
 
It stars award-winning actress Jane Seymour, together with a star-studded cast from London’s West End. Book your tickets via SISTIC today!

By John Faulkner

 

Sir Noel Peirce Coward was born in the London suburb of Teddington on 16 December 1899, just nine days before Christmas and hence the choice of first name! His work as a playwright, composer, cabaret artist, actor, singer, director and producer over some 50 years made him one of the most influential figures in British Drama of the 20th century — and he remains so today. For many professionals in the drama world, he was known — and is still known — as The Master, a title he hardly rushed to deny!

 

His stage career, heavily encouraged by his mother, started at the age of 12. By the time he was 20, he had already appeared in several plays in London’s West End.

 

By the age of 26, he had six of his plays running in West End — at the same time! But Coward was not quite everyone’s cup of tea, and his private life was sufficiently scandalous to shock in an age of conservative morals, at least on the outside!

 

He was saved from outright condemnation, though, by his fierce patriotism, most especially during Word War II, when he worked for the British MI5 intelligence services. He made the Academy Award-winning film In Which We Serve (1943) and performed his music for Allied armed forces around the battlefields of the war.

 

The great popularity of his music endeared him to the British public. “I’ll See You Again”, “Some Day I’ll Find You”, “A Room with a View”, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington” and so many more are all as popular today as they were decades ago.

 

Coward has been criticised as little more than a satirist of London High Society, writing plays full of sparkling wit and elegance but little else. It is all the more extraordinary then that his first play and the one that saved him from obscurity and penury was The Vortex (1924).

 

A scathing and shocking expose of London society at the time with a storyline that peels back the layer of respectability that concealed the moral corruption just beneath, The Vortex was a huge success for Coward, both as the playwright and the leading actor. It launched him on his career and he never looked back.

 

Society had some revenge, though; despite his worldwide fame for more than five decades, he had to wait until his 70th birthday before being knighted.

 

The witty quotes attributed to Coward are enough to fill several books, but here is one to end with. When a Time interviewer apologised, “I hope you haven’t been bored having to go through all these interviews for your [70th] birthday, having to answer the same old questions about yourself,” Coward rejoined, “Not at all. I’m fascinated by the subject.”

 

 


 

"The Vortex" will open its Asian premiere in Singapore at Raffles Hotel, Jubilee Hall on 27 April and run until 15 May 2016. BritCham members will receive a 10% discount and the promo code can be accessed at the Member Offers page. To book your tickets via SISTIC, please click here.

 

The British Theatre Playhouse will also be organising an "Art-for-Charity" Gala reception, performance and dinner, in aid of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Cross Singapore on the 29th April 2016. For more information, please refer to the flyer and the booking form.

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