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Noel Coward’s The Vortex (BBC Drama, Margaret Leighton)

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Middle – Upper Class family life, with all its foibles, comes under the microscope in The Vortex, at the heart of the story is 24 year old Nicky Lancaster who returns home with news of his forthcoming marriage (and hiding a drug habit from his parents) and his strange relationship with his mother. But being a Noel Coward piece there is much more to it than that. Written in the 1920’s this was considered highly shocking at the time, Nicky’s mother has taken a younger man as a lover and a thread of homosexuality is barely under the surface.

This late sixties production, broadcast under The Wednesday Play Strand, has stood the test of time quite well, even if the two main leading ladies are wearing an incredible amount of make up. It has the classic 1960’s play vibe, no location shooting, minimal (but nicely dressed) sets and a concentration on the dialogue (which is spot on of course).

Classic quote: “To describe you as hard would be inadequate – you’re metallic”

Cast: MARGARET LEIGHTON as Florence Lancaster / RICHARD WARWICK as Nicky Lancaster / PATRICK BARR as David Lancaster / ALAN MELVILLE as Pawnie / JENNIFER DANIEL as Helen / FELICITY GIBSON as Bunty Mainwaring / BARRY JUSTICE as Tom Veryan / NANCIE JACKSON as Clara Hibbert / DAVID McKAIL as Bruce Fairlight / PATRICK MORT as Preston / TOM McCALL as Pianist

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Writer: Noel Coward / Script Editor: Shaun MacLaughlin / Pianist: Tom McCall / Dances: Hilary Pritchard / Costumes: Penny Lowe / Production Design: Tony Abbott / Producer: Graeme McDonald / Director: Philip Dudley

UK / BBC One / 1×70 minute episode / Broadcast 10 December 1969 at 9.10pm


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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