Dance Review: The Vortex – Danced Drama, Or No Game For A Coward

August 15, 2015



The Vortex / Choreographed by Marc Goldberg / Pieter Torien’s Montecasino Theatre, Johannesburg


Unexpected vision is an exciting thing in any art form, so choreographer Marc Goldberg’s idea: re-interpreting Noel Coward’s story sex, drugs and family politics The Vortex (originally a three-act play, now a two-act contemporary ballet by the Cape Town City Ballet) is an intriguing project.

The programme explains the action, and it needs to as, other than brief parts of the soundtrack in which Coward’s dry wit is showcased in the lyrics of his songs, there is no dialogue or text to drive one scene into another or explain the relationships between characters.

To say that this is a retelling of The Vortex, then, is misleading, but the context provided by the story does allow Goldberg, as well as Jenny Stretch and the Cape Town City Ballet wardrobe department, to draw on the tone of Coward’s writing and the look and feel of the 1920s.

In costume terms, this means that the dancers must contend with tuxedos and cocktail dresses (or the underwear worn beneath them, depending on the scene), and the choreography reflects the period via the inclusion of flashes of the Charleston between other, more contemporary sequences.

The dancers are made to work hard. It’s a small cast – eight in total – and Goldberg includes a huge number of steps and movements in each scene. Thomas Thorne a Nicky enjoys a great deal of stage time and impresses throughout, displaying flexibility, agility and good technique as he manoeuvres his tall, muscular frame around the stage. Laura Bosenberg as Florence (the character is Nicky’s mother; the dancer looks like his sister) adds emotion and precision to her role – off all the cast, she is most obviously a ballerina rather than a contemporary dancer – while Sarah-Lee Chapman gives Bunty (Nicky’s fiancée) sassiness and allure.

The pace might be responsible for a second act that has less impact than the first. The Pas de Deux remain strong, but some of the other ideas rather impede the flow of the piece.

The Vortex is an interesting, elegant addition to the repertoire. It could benefit, though, from a slightly more balanced pace (less frenetic during the busy patches; a touch more action in the quieter gaps). And Coward fans will see very little of their hero in what takes place, though the marketing would have you believe otherwise.