Theatre review: The Vortex | The Gate Theatre

Originally published by Entertainment Ireland. To read the original, please click here

Noel Coward's The Vortex will run at The Gate Theatre until 22nd March

Noel Coward’s The Vortex will run at The Gate Theatre until 22nd March

RECEIVING its first production on an Irish stage in what we now recognise as post- Celtic Tiger Ireland, Noël Coward’s breakthrough work encapsulates the fall from dizzying heights of London’s bohemian set. While the play strives for the drama that defines a work such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Coward’s play is laced with his savage wit, taking the form of catty dismissals of characters (“Poor Clara: she eternally labours under the delusion that she really matters”) courtesy of Pauncefort “Pawnie” Quentin (played by Mark O’Reagan).

There is, of course, the obligatory, fabulous dance sequence- jazz hands and all- choreographed by Philip Connaughton, though, in a twist, the drug- addled anti- hero of The Vortex, Nicky Lancaster (played by Rory Fleck Byrne) dances manically and out of time with the rest of the party, which tells its own story.

Set designer Paul O’Mahony’s round set is symmetrical with all of the images and the themes that Coward’s play raises: the play’s title, of course; the social circle of London’s elite; the glasses in which cocktails and wine are swirled; the meeting, again, of the Tom and Bunty; the circle of substance abuse and addiction.

Adding to the visual aesthetics of this complete production is Philip Stewart’s sound design and Chahine Yavroyan’s lighting design, both of which provide added punch to the production. Cutting each scene are flashbulbs- effects, which attempt to summon the nostalgic charm inherent in any jazz age- era production, but also to give the effect that the moments in the play are frozen in time, much like the play itself.

Just as the success or failure of a production such as A Streetcar Named Desire hinges on the quality of the performance of the actress playing Blanch Du Bois, a play like The Vortex will always be judged on the strength of the performance by the actor playing Nicky Lancaster; in this respect, The Gate’s production of The Vortex is success. Rory Fleck Byrne’s compelling performance as Nicky Lancaster is well- paced and nuanced, the subtext beneath Nicky’s neediness towards his mother and his sham engagement towards Bunty clear to the uniformed audience member (“I’ve grown up all wrong”, utters Nicky, in one of the play’s more memorable scenes).

Following on from The Gate’s successful runs of The Threepenny Opera and Pride and Prejudice was never going to be easy, but this production of Coward’s great play feels definitive and precise, lifting its audience up into the dizzying heights only to be brought back down through the crashing lows, much like Cowards anti- hero.

Star rating: 4 / 5
Review by: Philip Cummins
Venue: The Gate Theatre

Written by: Noël Coward
Directed by: Annabelle Comyn
Cast: Fiona Bell, Rory Fleck Byrne, Simon Coury, Peter Gaynor, Mark O’Regan, Susannah Harker, Andrea Kelly

The View by Philip Rademeyer, The Teacher’s Club, Dublin, May 13th, 2013

The View from inside: Philip Rademeyer’s The View

Originally published by, Wednesday 15th May, 2013. To read the original, please click here. 

Written by: Philip Rademeyer
Directed by: Philip Rademeyer
Cast: Ella Gabriel, Roelof Storm

Part of Dublin’s 10th Annual Gay Theatre Festival, the European premiere of Philip Rademeyer’s The View, which is largely set in confines of a prison cell, found itself the perfect venue in the basement of Parnell Square’s Teacher’s Club.

Told from the perspective of a young, imprisoned, gay man, who sits, center stage, watching a video of messages from those he has known in his life outside the prison walls, the play centers around the young man and yet features many perspectives from a multitude of characters, played with great energy from actress Ella Gabriel. The Cape Town actress plays everyone from the prison’s gatekeeper, to his mother, to a peeping neighbor. Her greatest triumph however, is as a cynical news reporter reporting on the man’s trial and imprisonment; downstage center and stood up on a chair, she immediately brings to mind Tilda Swinton; particularly the Tilda Swinton that we see in Michael Clayton.

The story of the young man’s imprisonment and the nature of his relationship with those characters played by Gabriel, the story is told with great originality and creativity. After playing each part, Gabriel hangs an item of clothing or an accessory from each character, which over the course of the play build up to create a vivid image of the young man’s past of his relationship to the characters played by Gabriel.

What pulls the play back however, is its forays into “In- yer- face” theatre; that now much dated trend from the 1990s that sought to teach us that shouting as loud as one possibly can, howling profanities from across the stage and uttering abstract, idiosyncratic language is theatre at its most vital. It isn’t. The effect, unfortunately, that this has on The View is a play that struggles to keep the dynamics fresh and exciting for the audience and, instead, the play resorts to the cheap hallmarks of “In- yer- face” theatre as a way of keeping the structure of the play interesting and engaging for the audience. The play also struggles, at times with its own limitations and it doesn’t stretch out the possibilities as much as it possibly could; there is, for example, little humor in the play, which if there was more, would play off quite colorfully against the monologue from the imprisoned young man.

The play also isn’t served well by an ending that is as portentous as it is labored; the young man rising out of his chair and assuming a Christ-like pose. The physical dynamics of the central character are not fully explored: at times, he is too still and, again, the limitations of sitting on the chair do more to hinder the production rather than anything else.

Patchy, though boasting a brilliant performance from actress Ella Gabriel and featuring creative and well thought-out lighting, The View, unfortunately, doesn’t look far enough into it’s own possibilities.

The View runs in The Teacher’s Club until the 18th may at 9.30pm. Matinee: 18th May at 4.30pm. Tickets: €10 – €15. For more information go to:

For the full International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival programme click here.