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October 2018

Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward

By Stephen Hankin - Friday 2th October, 2018
(reproduced by kind permission of
the Isle of Wight County Press)

Spirits still alive in Coward’s Comedy

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit was first seen in the West End in 1941.

With death a constant during war-time Britain, Coward wondered if a comedy was a good idea but his view was, as the story would be 'thoroughly heartless, ‘you can’t sympathise with any of them’.

The actors achieved Coward's objective - it was hard to pity any of the actors, apart from the maid played by Dinah Bowman.

Her comical ‘worn out’ entrances gave a little light relief to the ‘wickedness’ portrayed on stage by actors Carolyn Ferguson (Ruth Condomine), Steve Taverner (Charles Condomine), Steve Kimpton (Dr Bradman), Sarah Kellett (Mrs Bradman), Cheryl May (Madame Arcati) and Ness Law (Elvira).

Charles is writing a book and invites medium Madame Arcati to their home to gather research.

A seance is arranged and Charles’s former wife, Elvira, is called back. Only Charles can see Elvira, and there are a few lovely comedy exchanges between the actors playing Ruth, Charles and Elvira. Charles offends his wife by calling her a ‘guttersnipe’,'an insult, of course, meant for Elvira. I was convinced Carolyn Ferguson (Ruth) couldn’t see the ghost with her shocked reaction to her stage husband's sudden insults and manic behaviour.

Ness Law (Elvira) gave a believable performance of a spectre, gliding around the stage in her sparkly outfit teasing her victims with little snipes and a ‘wicked’ step mother tone to her voice.

A sense of foreboding was achieved in act two by the sound of the rain and soft lighting.

Cheryl~May (Madam Arcati) was perhaps a little too enthusiastic at times but added a comical touch with her flamboyant dancing.

The fourth wall was broken during scene changes with the stage curtains being left open. Keeping the audience separate from the actors would have heightened the mood and suspense.

However, there were some 1ovely performances, with perhaps just little too much dialogue.

A voice-over could have been used to speed up the narrative of a well-rehearsed play