Blithe Spirit (1999)

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Photograph and compositing by Brian Fretwell

by Noël Coward

Directed by John Mead

Performances: Tue 2nd – Sat 6th February 1999, Bell Theatre


The action passes in the living room of Charles Condomine's house in Kent.




"Many of us were familiar with Blithe Spirit. The more antiquated had seen and remembered with affectionate approval the SLTC's 1975 version.

John Mead's production set off at a cracking speed, which precluded any dozing but seemed more frenzy than pace. Edith's propensity for sprinting was clearly infectious. Paradoxically the arrival of Elvira settled everybody down and we could appreciate the dialogue, which now sounded as if it had been written by Coward and just occasionally as if he were speaking it. The scene between Ruth, Charles and Elvira was played with pace and polish and the misunderstandings were vividly pointed. By the time the interval arrived the audience and the cast were having a good time.

The second act unfolded rewardingly to the hilarious mayhem at the end. Now and then a loss of fluency disturbed our comfort but it was generally a very enjoyable act played with verve and excellent timing.

Blithe Spirit had the benefit of an excellently furnished, ideally decorated and practical set designed by Alan Buckman. Alan made the best of Coward's lines and made the self-regarding Charles quite sympathetic. He avoided the pitfalls of relishing the lines at the expense of character. Ruth as portrayed by Eileen Coan disintegrated steadily and convincingly from commanding spouse to pathetic victim. Her extreme moods contrasted effectively with the sly confidence of Elvira, played seductively and provocatively by Elaine Heath. Ruth Lidyard, a rustic Madam Arcarti, seemed bewildered by every event but was no less comic for that and Karen Lewis was a joy as the athletically nervous Edith. This production did not quite 'ring the bell' but it was enjoyable and in my view funnier than the 1975 version."


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