Blithe Spirit (1991)

by Noel Coward

9th – 11th May 1991

Charles Condomine, a successful novelist, wishes to learn about the occult for a novel he is writing, and he arranges for an eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, to hold a séance at his house. At the séance, she inadvertently summons Charles’s first wife, Elvira, who has been dead for seven years.

Blithe Prog 1991

The Cast

Edith: Tracey Brett
Ruth: Angela Foster
Charles: Dave Hawkins
Doctor Bradman: Paul Shave
Mrs Bradman: Brenda Prior
Madame Arcarti: Marianne Smith
Elvira: Enid Farr

Produced by Mary Warrington

Newbury Weekly News review

Fresh treatment for old favourite

Blithe Spirit is probably the best known and loved of Noel Coward’s comedies, a classic piece of theatre that combines witty repartee, striking character portrayals and supernatural visitations in one finely-tuned script. Tackling a play like Blithe Spirit is not without risks: it’s familiar enough to be compared with the film, and long enough to lose the audience half way through. But despite these dangers, Compton Players proved last week that they could stamp the play with their own lively and individual style.

The cast of seven generally seemed comfortable in their roles, and were well chosen by the producer Mary Warrington. Dave Hawkins, as novelist Charles Condomine, provided a strong lead, and was well complemented by Angela Foster as his second wife Ruth. I felt they both lacked pace during the delightful dialogue of the first scene, but quickly warmed up once the action became more intense.

Marianne Smith was excellent in the role of eccentric medium Madame Arcarti, a cuddly confusion of knowing smiles and home-spun philosophy.

The supporting characters, the clumsy but well-meaning maid Edith and the Condomines’ guests Dr and Mrs Bradman, were convincingly portrayed by Tracey Brett, Paul Shave and Brenda Prior respectively. Brenda’s delivery of Mrs Bradman’s nervous, inane chatter was particularly impressive.

The highlight of the performance was as ever the arrival of Elvira, Charles’ first wife accidentally spirited up by the muddling medium. Enid Farr’s first-rate performance did justice to Coward’s wonderful creation, and fully captured her physical elegance, sparkling eyes, and manipulating personality.

On the technical side the production was quite sound: the set, designed by Mike Long, and the costumes looked very professional, though there were perhaps a few anachronisms.

I felt that some of the make-up and wigs needed a little more attention, particularly in the case of Ruth and the Bradmans, which was a shame as it made the characters less credible. However, this is only a minor criticism of a very polished and enjoyable production.