Writer: Noel Coward
Director: Richard Eyre
One of Noel Coward’s most well-known comedies, Blithe Spirit, tells the story of Charles (Geoffrey Streatfield) a novelist who in an attempt to relieve his writer’s block invites the local medium into his home to draw inspiration for his new character of a fraudulent medium. Things quickly take a turn though when medium Madame Arcati (Jennifer Saunders) inadvertently conjures the ghost of his first wife; leaving Charles and his current marriage well and truly haunted by his first.
Originally written in 1941, this play with a comedic focus on death and the afterlife, was a huge success at the time and has continued to make appearances on stage since and is proving to be just as popular with modern audiences despite its dated style.
A big reason for the success of this production is, of course, Jennifer Saunders in the role of Madame Arcati. Saunders plays Arcati as a socially inept English Countrywoman, drawing on the use of physical comedy and excellent timing to propel the play forward and keep the audience laughing throughout. When given the stage, though, the central trio of Geoffrey Streatfield, Lisa Dillon, and Emma Naomi as Charles, his wife Ruth, and first wife Elvira do fall a little flat on the comedic front but instead bring glimpses of genuine emotion and a view to a midlife marriage of people existing with a past.
The script does become a little uncomfortable at times though and the age of the play starts to show when the majority of the jokes come at the expense of the women, with them being pitted against each other as the old nagging wife and the young temptress.
Overall, there are plenty of jokes to keep the audience laughing throughout and Saunders is, as expected, the star of the show and very much the key to bringing it all together, but there are a few moments perhaps when the vale lifts just a little and the age of the show starts to become visible with jokes that don’t sit comfortably and a points which are a little tired.
Aged as it may be though, this show is perhaps still a spectre worth being haunted by.
Runs until 29 February 2020