A friend of mine recently went to see "The Vortex" by Noel Coward in London. "Good play," he said.
I have only read it and that was a long time ago. I remember one line from it (probably not accurately) : "we are being drawn down into a vortex of beastliness". Or something like that.
I thought, at the time that it was typical Coward and typically superficial and, indeed, rather silly.
It was, I believe, Coward's first major success. I saw his last one. With him in it.
London. The day when England won the world cup in football. The same afternoon. There I was in one of the London theatres watching Noel Coward in his final appearance of his last performed play (whose title I have forgotten) while England were wallopping Germany in the same city.
Coward was too old to be anything but adequate in his play. He shuffled about the stage like someone in an old people's home. He spoke the lines well enough but with hardly any feeling. Until the end of the play.
The play revolved around the purchase of some incriminating letters from a man with whom the old man in the play had once had an affair (very risky material for the time). He eventually acquires the letters and sits facing the audience with the letters on the arm of the chair while his wife is getting a tray of tea in the background. One of the letters falls to the floor and Coward picks it up, is about to put it with the others but instead starts to read it. Tears slowly well to his eyes and run down his cheeks as he reads. His wife walks towards him with the tray of tea but, sensing something wrong, pauses and stands there looking at his back.
You have to give it to Noel Coward: when it comes to dramatic theatrical effects there is hardly anyone to beat him.