Devonshire Park Theatre | until Saturday 16th July.
Blithe Spirit | Review
Somewhere on the theatrical touring circuit there is usually a Noel Coward play doing the rounds, Private Lives, Hayfever, Relative Values to name a few, but probabaly the most well know and most popular of all Coward’s plays is Blithe Spirit.
Talking Scarlet’s production begins with a poignant voice-over setting the play in context. First produced in 1941 at the height of the Second World War. People were living with uncertainty and nervousness however Coward’s waspish humour in Blithe Spirit managed to put a lighthearted spin on the subject of death and as a result, ran in the West End for several years.
The play opens with novelist Charles Condemine and his wife Ruth preparing to welcome guests for dinner. Charles has also invited a medium called Madame Arcati to conduct a séance after dinner. Arcati believes that she is there to contact the dead but in fact she has only been invited so that Charles can gain insight for his next thriller.
When Madame Arcati arrives we see she is an oddball spinster who on the surface seems harmlessly eccentric but actually possses the power to summon up the ghost Charles’ deceased first wife Elvira.
Many famous actresses have previously played the irrepressible Madame Arcati over the years, Margaret Rutherford immortalised the role in the 1945 film but recently the West End has seen Dame Angela Lansbury smash the role. Here, Judy Buxton takes on the role with charismatic delectability. Swathed as a colourful hippy she dances and skips round the stage in an eccentric manner to the delight and amusement of the audience.
Equally delightful is Michelle Morris who plays the blithe and mischievous Elvira who is determined to undermine Charles’ relationship with his second wife Ruth (Anna Brecon). Charles (Oliver Mellor) is the only person to be able to see and converse with the spirit. Torn between Elvira’s charm and Ruth’s stoicism he is quite happy to play one wife against the other until Elvira’s true intentions become apparent.
With all Coward’s plays the humour comes with dry wit and waspish comments. Director John Hester has ensured that none of this humour gets lost particularly when Charles talks at cross- purposes with both his wives. Laughs from the audience are frequent and loud. The special effects are slick and effective and the set is elegant and functional.
Talking Scarlet has produced Blithe Spirit and the show opened on Tuesday to a warm appreciative reception at the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne. It is easy to watch, there are some great lines and plenty of strong characterisation. Great for a little escapism and an entertaining night out.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
☆☆☆☆ Highly Recommended.
Blithe Spirit opened on Monday at the Devonshire Park Theatre and plays until Saturday 16th July.
Photo of Judy Buxton © Michael Wharley Photography 2013